The Bear River Task Force has fine-tuned a bill seeking a $10 million state appropriation to begin developing water storage projects on the Bear River.
The Bear River project involves a series of reservoirs to provide storage for some 300,000 acre feet of water assigned to Utah under the Bear River Compact with Idaho and Wyoming. The $10 million would be the initial seed money for a holding account that would have additional money added each year to eventually fund approved projects.The measure failed to win endorsement by the Legislature's Energy, Natural Resources and Agriculture Interim Committee last week. The committee's lack of action was due mostly to the late arrival of the proposed bill and not specific objections to the bill's intent.
Earlier this week the task force reviewed the bill in detail with sponsor Sen. Fred Finlinson, R-Salt Lake, who is expected to file the bill in the Senate when the Legislature convenes in January.
The most notable element of the discussion was the task force's endorsement of a conveyance system to take water from a proposed dam project near Honeyville, Box Elder County, to Willard Bay. The $30 million project was not part of the original discussion for Bear River storage projects.
Larry Anderson, director of the Division of Water Resources, said the system, which would either be a pipeline or a canal, would improve efficiencies in the project to the point that an additional 20,000 to 30,000 acre-feet of water annually would be added to the project effort.
"This is water in addition to that which has been discussed in previous meetings," Anderson said.
Most of that water would go to Wasatch Front areas for culinary uses.
Another important change endorsed by the task force was reducing the percentage of subscribed water sales before a project could begin. In the original draft, participating water districts were required to subscribe for a minimum of 70 percent of the projected water sales before the Legislature could consider appropriating money to begin construction. The task force voted to lower that requirement to 50 percent.
"If you hold to the 70 percent requirement, most of us (task force members) sitting here won't see these projects begin," said Wayne Winegar, a task force member and a director on the state Water Resources Board which would oversee the project development. "We'll be looking up from under six feet of dirt."
The bill appears to have strong support from senators serving on both the task force and the interim committee. House support is not as strong but appears to have a slight edge over the opposition.