A group of Alpine residents is looking for new ammo to use in a good, old-fashioned water dispute with two Lehi irrigation companies.
The residents have hired an engineer to evaluate damage to wells and private property that may occur if the Lehi and North Bench irrigation companies proceed with plans to pipe water from Dry Creek to Fort Canyon. The five-day study is to begin immediately.The residents also want Alpine City to lend more than just its name to a suit filed in 4th District Court protesting the irrigation companies' plans: They want the city to help fund the fight. City Council members are mulling that request.
The Lehi Irrigation and North Bench companies filed a change application with State Engineer Robert Morgan on Jan. 4, 1989, asking to divert 30 cubic feet per second of water from the head gates in Dry Creek via pipe to Fort Canyon for up to 50 days each spring.
Lehi and North Bench have rights to 15/26ths (162 second-feet) of the water that flows in Dry Creek from about April 15 to July 10 each year. The water irrigates approximately 5,000 acres of farmland.
The Alpine Irrigation Company is entitled to the remaining 11/26ths as well as water that flows in the creek after July 10 each year.
However, Dry Creek isn't called Dry Creek for no reason; below the head gates, it dries up every summer. Thanks to a continuing drought, Dry Creek is going dry earlier each year; last year the creek went dry on July 2.
Between 1930 and 1963, the irrigation companies tried to cut water loss along the worst section of Dry Creek by diverting water through a man-made ditch to Fort Canyon.
In more recent years, the two irrigation companies have not depended as heavily on water in Dry Creek, instead buying surplus water flowing out of Deer Creek Reservoir.
"We let the other water run down the creek rather than through the man-made canal (the Highline Canal)," Sheldon Worthington, Lehi Irrigation water superintendent, said.
The canal is now no longer usable - its course cuts through a number of vacant lots and through one home.
With construction of the Jordanelle Dam proceeding at a rapid pace, surplus water is about to become a thing of the past. The irrigation companies are scouting for every drop of water they have rights to. By piping the water over the one-mile distance to Fort Canyon, the companies will cut water loss dramatically.
That has got Alpine residents up in arms. A lot of people thought all that water running down Dry Creek was pretty. There was one home along the creek in 1963; now there are about 60 homes abutting the creek as well as a number of vacant lots there.
Not only will residents lose the aesthetic benefit of living along a creek for 50 more days each year, they contend the water flowing in Dry Creek recharges city and private wells.
"This water feeds about seven private wells plus three city wells," said Wayne D. Mills, who owns a ranch in Alpine and is one resident fighting the irrigation companies' plans. "If they remove this quantity of water, these wells will be affected."
Alpine City engineer Lee Wimmer said the city set up a gauging station on the creek last summer to measure water flow between the head gates and the city's lower boundary. He agrees that water flowing through Dry Creek helps recharge an underground aquifer.
Residents also say the irrigation companies will have to cut through private yards to lay their pipeline. So far, the companies haven't indicated willingness to restore the property, Mills said.
That's not true, said John Bushman, secretary/treasurer for the Lehi Irrigation Company. Irrigation company representatives met with Alpine residents twice and told them they are "willing to negotiate whether we go along the existing right-of-way or along another course," he said.
The irrigation companies own a right-of-way through the area except through one 40-acre stretch, where three or four homes are located, Bushman said.
The companies also have set aside money for property restoration.
But Mills says some vegetation that will have to be removed will be difficult - if not impossible - to replace.
"It will take a long time for it to grow back," he said.
Morgan denied protests filed by the residents, saying neither riparian vegetation or underground aquifers would be adversely affected by the irrigation companies' plans.
Alpine residents will wait for the engineer they've hired to complete his study and then decide whether to pursue the matter in court.