One dam falls, another rises

  • Boondoggle: Zach Frankel says a new CUP plan makes no sense

    Fred Hayes photo
  SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - A dam proposed for the Diamond Fork River near Provo, Utah, all but died this October. The Central Utah Water Conservancy District backed off in the face of financial concerns and rising public opposition, pulling the dam from the "preferred alternative" in an environmental impact statement.


One of the last pieces of the 40-year-old Central Utah Project (CUP), the $50 million dam would have stored water for alfalfa farmers in Juab County (HCN, 7/15/91). In place of the dam, the conservancy district plans to spend $47 million to pipe the water from an existing reservoir directly to the farmers.


State and federal officials were uncomfortable with the dam, says Claude Hicken, a water conservancy district board member. "Mainly, we decided we can accomplish the delivery of water without the dam."


Zach Frankel of the Utah Rivers Council says the project is still a boondoggle because Salt Lake County, which pays 67 percent of the local cost of the pipeline, gets none of the benefits.


It's not that Salt Lake County couldn't use the water. "Our water needs are projected to double over 25 to 30 years," says David Ovard with the county water conservancy district.


To provide water to Salt Lake's swelling suburbs, the state is planning to dam the Bear River to increase water supply. Some fear a dam would routinely de-water habitat in the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, which hosts more than 200 bird species; the refuge is the subject of Terry Tempest Williams' book Refuge.


Zach Frankel has a solution: Instead of piping CUP water to farmers, send it to Salt Lake County. That way, he says, a Bear River dam won't be necessary. As for the farmers, there is plenty of water they can pump out of the ground, he says.


It's not that easy, according to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District's Lee Wimmer. The groundwater is already spoken for, and sending CUP water to Salt Lake County would cause legal and "moral" problems because the project was meant primarily for agricultural purposes.


*Jeff Schmerker


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