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Guest column

By By Bert Soter
Guest columnist

Sanpete answers narrows objections column

William Krompel has always been a passionate opponent of the Narrows dam and reservoir in Sanpete County. While we admire his passion, his "Guest column" in the December 6, 2011 Sun Advocate leaves us--again--wishing he had as much passion for gathering facts and clear logic.

May we offer the following perspectives?

Former Commissioner Krompel observes that Sanpete uses water from natural drainages, via ditches and tunnels that run along the top of the Wasatch Plateau.

`Yes, we do.

Sanpete uses that water because Sanpete owns the rights to that water. The ownership chain is clear. The top of the Wasatch Plateau is located in Sanpete, not Carbon. The state of Utah owns all water in the state; rights to use Utah's water are issued by the State of Utah, in accordance with state law. Sanpete's legal ownership of the water it uses is absolutely clear.

Mr. Krompel suggests that Governor Herbert and other state/federal officials need to examine Sanpete's Narrows Reservoir "with a wider focus." Utah's existing water law evolved and has worked well for over 150 years. Sanpete's water rights and the Narrows fit squarely within existing law. It seems like he's asking that the law be changed to suit Carbon's interests at the expense of others. It doesn't require much objectivity to conclude that's a bad idea.

Mr. Krompel declares he has copies of documents listing Sanpete's ditches and water rights. We applaud his having gathered those papers. We encourage him to read them carefully, and research their meaning. If he does, he'll discover that those ditches and tunnels all have water rights which were properly and legally issued by the state of Utah. No one is surreptitiously stealing Carbon's water by means of well-hidden canals and ditches.

He correctly observes that a 1984 legal agreement (signed by Carbon) grants Sanpete 5,400 acre-feet of water. He calls this 5,400 acre-feet "additional" water. What he calls "additional" is a third of what we originally owned. That is hardly additional.

Sanpete owned 17,000 acre feet of water going into the negotiations that lead to the "1984 Compromise Agreement". We gave up two-thirds of our water in a huge concession intended to stop the bickering with Carbon over water. Carbon's part of the deal was to stop objecting to the Narrows in exchange for our giving up two-thirds of the water we legitimately owned. Apparently, Mr. Krompel has forgotten Carbon's commitment. His editorial is one more in a long string of protests that fly in the face of Carbon's promise to stop objecting to the Narrows.

He further observes that Sanpete has not yet put our water (the 5,400 acre feet) to beneficial use. Why haven't we? Primarily because of Carbon's never-ending objections to our building the reservoir we need (the Narrows) in which to store our water. What we have done, however, is carefully complied with all the State Engineer's requirements to receive extensions on our water rights, according to state law. The water rights are very solidly in place.

He also reminds us that Carbon water users have 30,000 acre-feet of water storage which Carbon uses regularly. It would be nice if you'd allow us to store our 5,400 acre-feet, while you enjoy your 30,000 acre-feet. Those allocations of state water go back to pre-World War II when the state recognized that both counties needed water storage. Carbon got an enlarged Scofield, 30,000 acre feet of added storage. Sanpete has yet to get its promised Narrows, 5,400 acre feet of storage.

During dry years, Krompel points out, Carbon receives only a fraction of its water, and suggests that during those times, Carbon needs Sanpete's water. Forgive us for pointing out the obvious. But during drought years, everyone runs short on water! We feel the same pain you do, and need to be able to store our 5,400 acre-feet against drought as badly as you need to store your 30,000.

Mr. Krompel underscores a point Sanpete has often emphasized, that much of the water Sanpete wants to store is water that spills out of Scofield, becoming useless to Sanpete or Carbon. He then goes on to say the last time Scofield spilled was in 1999, 12 years ago. Check your facts, Mr. Krompel. Scofield spilled last summer (2011), again sending our water down to California. Seems like it would be better for both of us to keep the water in Utah every year.

The last third of his editorial states various reasons why Carbon would like to have Sanpete's water. But it's our water.

We think Carbon's interests would be more productively served by developing better management of their water supply (Scofield) to accommodate their needs during drought periods. Droughts will be a reality, with or without the Narrows.

Water is a tough issue in Utah. But we believe that the law and integrity should prevail in its allocation. The law says Sanpete owns the water it wants to store in the Narrows Reservoir. Integrity, we think, dictates that Carbon should man up to the commitment it made in 1984 and stop objecting to our water storage project as they promised they would.

Bert Soter wrote this on behalf of the Sanpete Water Conservancy District

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