Filling the Central Utah Project's Jordanelle reservoir will not jeopardize water rights on the lower Provo River, CUP General Manager Don Christiansen told members of the Utah County Water Advisory Board Thursday.
Christiansen, addressing concerns about where the CUP is going to get water needed to fill the 300,000-acre-foot reservoir under construction between Heber and Park City, said CUP will honor existing water rights."We're junior to every one of them," he said of existing rights. "I don't know that this is serious."
But Wayne Hillier, Provo Metropolitan Water District manager, and at least a couple of advisory board members were skeptical. Hillier predicted CUP will have serious problems filling the reservoir without jeopardizing water rights downstream, especially during dry years.
Christiansen, however, said the CUP has no plans to fill the reservoir every year. "There is no assumption of that," he said.
During dry water years like the past year, the CUP won't be able to store any water in the reservoir, he said. But that will change during wet years.
"We're estimating three to four years to fill it," Christiansen said.
Hillier disputed that time frame. According to reports by the U.S. Geological Survey from 1951-84, there were only a few years wet enough to have filled the Jordanelle in such a short time. He said a more realistic period for filling the reservoir is between four and eight years.
"It won't stay dry, but it sure as hell will stay low," he said, adding that officials should have stuck with original plans to construct only a 60,000-acre-foot reservoir.
Hillier told Christiansen the CUP should have learned something from the filling of Deer Creek Reservoir in the 1940s. Because the Provo River was an inadequate water source to fill the reservoir, which is half the size of Jordanelle, officials had to tap into the Weber and Duchesne rivers, he said.
Hillier warned water advisory board members to be wary of CUP plans to purchase about 75,000 acre feet of water rights from Utah Lake, which the CUP could subsequently transfer to Jordanelle by withholding Provo River flow. He also warned of a Bureau of Reclamation application to purchase 4,000 second-feet of water between the reservoir and Utah Lake.
"This is the one you have to worry about," he said. Because water on the Provo River already has been fully adjudicated, Hillier said, selling additional water from the river will jeopardize existing rights.
"The Bureau (of Reclamation) has a habit of overadjudicating," he said.
Christiansen denied the CUP has any plans of withholding flow or impinging upon anyone's water rights.
Merril Bingham, Provo water superintendent, said the city cannot afford to lose any of its decreed water rights because of increasing needs. "That's the great concern we, as water users, have," he said.
Christiansen admitted, "There may be a conflict."
Hillier said he is worried by previous statements from CUP officials about the demand Jordanelle will put on the Provo River from October through April. Christiansen assured him, however, that the CUP will operate within the law and according to court decree.
J. Rulon Gammon, who lives west of the Geneva Steel plant, said aquifers in his area are drying up and must be recharged by not decreasing further the flow of Provo River water from Deer Creek Reservoir to Utah Lake.
"We literally cannot stand any reduction in the recharge of the aquifer," he said.