Even though they may not have the right to do it, the Carbon Water Conservancy District and two anglers' groups are appealing a federal decision to allow construction of the Gooseberry Narrows dam and reservoir.
The appeal has to do with the Bureau of Reclamation's Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Statement issued last month. The notice of appeal is in a letter to Bureau Commissioner Michael L. Connor on behalf of the district, Trout Unlimited-Utah Water Project and the Stonefly Society Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
However, the attorney for the Parsons Behle & Latimer law firm who wrote the letter also asks the commissioner to clarify some uncertainty about the right of the parties to appeal. Michael J. Malmquist noted that it is not clear in the Code of Federal Regulations whether anyone other than the Sanpete Water Conservancy District - the applicant - can appeal the Record of Decision.
The opponents of the project are sending a protective notice of appeal anyway "out of an abundance of caution" and to establish a record of their opposition, the letter states.
Carbon and Sanpete counties have been in a protracted water war since the early 20th Century. Sanpete wants to exercise its right to divert 5,400 acre feet of water per year from the Price River drainage that now flows into Scofield Reservoir. To do this, the Narrows project would impound water in a 17,000 acre-foot reservoir and pipe it to the alfalfa fields on the other side of the Wasatch Plateau.
Scofield is the principal water source for the cities, industries and farms on the west side of Carbon County.
The CWCD and sportsmen are appealing because they say the environmental study and record of decision are inadequate. They contend that the analysis has not adequately considered impacts on:
wetlands and pristine high-mountain streams;
water quality and quantity;
fisheries and recreation;
They also state that the bureau has inadequate in mitigation of impacts and the seismic analysis understated costs and impacts. Finally, they say that the bureau did not seriously consider alternatives.
Opponents to the dam and reservoir have already filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for documents that led to the bureau's decision. They're asking the commissioner for an extension of time to complete their appeal if he decides they do have right to it.