To fulfill promises made last year to pull environmentalists into a coalition supporting completion of the Central Utah Project, Utah's members of Congress called Monday for more study of the Jordanelle Dam.
They wrote U.S. Geological Study Director Dallas Peck asking his agency to again evaluate the safety of Jordanelle - which is under construction near Heber, Wasatch County - and whether the Provo River can fill it and meet all other exisiting water rights.Aides to the congressmen said environmentalists originally wanted such studies to be included in a bill the delegation failed to pass last year but is again pushing now, to raise the CUP's debt limit to allow its completion.
A compromise was reached to instead send a letter requesting the same studies. Aides stressed that Utah members generally do not believe Jordanelle is unsafe or that insufficient water is available to fill it - but they want a review to verify it.
They said Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, was the catalyst for the present form of the letter to protect concerns of some in Wasatch and Utah counties. They said a similar letter would have been sent last October if their CUP completion bill had passed then but is being sent now to fulfill promises.
The letter said, "For a number of years, several individuals have raised questions concerning the potential for faulting, landsliding, seepage into underground mines or other seismic activity at the (Jordanelle) site. . . .
"To settle any lingering questions concerning public safety, we request that the Survey review the entire body of information available from all sources relating to this matter."
Members noted the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation drilled test holes before construction to help ensure geology would support the dam and that it had asked a panel of geologists and engineers to review dam plans - both of which concluded the site would be safe.
The letter also asked the agency to "review the work of the Bureau (of Reclamation) and the Utah State water engineer" and all other sources about whether Jordanelle can be filled without hurting existing water rights on the Provo River, Deer Creek Reservoir and Utah Lake.
"Please include in your review an analysis of all existing and proposed importation and exchanges of water, and agreements and plans to meet current and future instream flows requirements," the letter said.
Signing the letter were Reps. Orton and Wayne Owens, D-Utah, and Jim Hansen, R-Utah, and Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The Jordanelle Dam is considered the key feature of the CUP needed to allow transfer of water from eastern Utah to the thirsty Wasatch Front.