The Army has abandoned a small reservoir in Red Butte Canyon east of Salt Lake City, Utah, leaving federal, state and county agencies playing a game of political hot potato.


Red Butte Reservoir is one of several refuges established in northern Utah to protect the June sucker - a fish native to Utah Lake, south of the Great Salt Lake. Some 400 suckers placed in the reservoir in 1994 are thriving, says Reed Harris, director of the Utah field office of the Utah Fish and Wildlife Service.


But no one knows who is responsible for the reservoir. The land it sits on was transferred from the Army to the Forest Service in 1970, but the Army agreed to continue to manage the water - until it changed its mind in March.


Attorneys for the Forest Service say the Army cannot legally give up responsibility for the aging dam, which would cost about $2 million to bring up to modern safety standards or about $5 million to remove. Salt Lake County and the city of Salt Lake have considered taking responsibility for the reservoir, but both say the repair costs are too high.


The Fish and Wildlife Service could remove the fish from the reservoir, but would prefer them to remain in place. Says Harris, "This is one of the rare instances where I don't want to see them tear a dam out."


* Jim Woolf