Central Utah Water Conservancy District officials say they have no condemnation powers to confiscate water in the Heber Valley area.
General Manager Don Christiansen told members of the Daniels Creek Irrigation Company that the Central Utah Project bill before Congress does not give the district condemnation powers although it does authorize the district to purchase available water shares in Wasatch County.Cal Muir, president of the irrigation company, said the group does not oppose a plan to improve water flows in the Strawberry River on the east side of Daniels Pass, but he said the company will fight to prevent water purchases that threaten the company's future operations.
About 85 percent of Daniels Creek water is diverted from the Strawberry River side of the pass. Muir said the company has owned the water right allowing the diversion for more than 100 years and will protect that right in court if necessary.
David G. Frandsen, chief of the water and lands division of the Utah office of the federal Bureau of Reclamation, said a number of alternatives are under review and he is confident the issue can be resolved without harming the company.
Among the options is using Jordanelle Dam water that has been assigned for sale and use in the Heber Valley. The dam is currently under construction north of Heber City on the Provo River. Some 12,000 acre-feet of the water stored in the reservoir will be assigned for use in the Heber Valley.
Using Jordanelle water is the least complicated approach for replacing the diversion water, Frandsen said. Under the plan, water would be piped high enough in the foothills to carry the water to the Daniels Creek area. Wasatch County is considering such a pipeline to serve other irrigation needs in the valley.
Some county officials believe the 12,000 acre feet from Jordanelle isn't enough and support local efforts by farmers to prevent the sale of irrigation water sales to interests outside the valley. County Commissioner Moroni Besendorfer said the Jordanelle consignment won't meet agricultural needs in the valley.
Muir said the Jordanelle option is acceptable as long as it recognizes the company's existing water right. He said such a pipeline could feed two of the company's three storage ponds. Water could then be pumped into the third. Muir said the company's members have more than 1,000 acres under irrigation using the gravity flow pressurized system. Without the diversion, farmers in that area of the Heber Valley would have to rely on flood irrigation practices which proved ineffective before the company's installation of a pressurized system in 1979, Muir said.
Frandsen said without the diversion, Daniels Creek is an intermittent stream, flowing naturally only during the spring runoff and into early summer.
Eliminating the diversion is required by the CUP bill as an environmental mitigation to protect the Strawberry River fishery. Frandsen said if the diversion were eliminated, the Strawberry could develop into an excellent spawning area for trout, reducing the need to plant fish on a yearly basis.