Fishers are welcoming a decision expected to keep Provo River flow high enough to protect the river's fishery between Deer Creek Dam and the Olmstead Diversion Dam.
Water flow through the six-mile stretch appeared to be jeopardized because of low water in Deer Creek Reservoir and plans to repair the Olmstead aqueduct. The green aqueduct, which comes on line at the Olmstead dam, carries water to a treatment plant in north Orem before the water flows to Salt Lake County.To empty the line for repairs, officials tentatively planned to reroute about 100 second-feet of water on Oct. 15 into the Salt Lake aqueduct instead of letting it flow down the Provo River to the diversion dam. The Salt Lake aqueduct begins just below Deer Creek Dam.
Officials decided on Monday, however, to do repairs from Oct. 10 to 15 so they could take advantage of current higher river flows. The flows will be reduced sometime after Oct. 15 when demand for irrigation water by Provo water users ceases.
"We have outlined a plan we think will be good for everyone involved," said Nick Sefakis, general manager of the Salt Lake City Metropolitan Water District. Speaking during the meeting at the Central Utah Water Conservancy District offices in Orem, he said, "I believe if all the people involved work together, we can maintain 100 cfs (in the river)."
Also attending the meeting were representatives of the Provo River Water Users Association, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"We're relieved," said Steve Schmidt, who owns Western River Flyfisher tackle shop in Salt Lake. "We feel better that a compromise was met and that they came up with a reasonable solution."
Other anglers, however, are suspicious.
"I really think this is all about the fact that they don't have enough water to fill the Jordanelle," said Bill Partner, a member of the Stonefly Society fishing club. "I think this will come out as a great compromise, but I don't really see it as that."
Despite Monday's decision, officials are still faced with finding a solution to the low water level in Deer Creek Reservoir. A similar problem occurred last year when water users, concerned that the reservoir wouldn't fill this year, sought to reduce water flow from the dam into the Provo River. The Bureau of Reclamation, however, decided to release some of its own water to maintain flow at 100 cfs.
Officials believe 100 cfs is needed to prevent damage to Provo River fishery, although a study is under way to determine whether smaller flows are adequate.
The Bureau of Reclamation has sold its 1988 water allocation in Deer Creek to the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District and has no way to help maintain flows until the new water allocation year begins Nov. 1.
Jack Gardner, superintendent of the Provo River Water Users Association, predicted that storage in the dam this year likely will be inadequate to meet demand next year.
The reservoir can hold 152,600 acre feet, but as of Sunday it held only 71,400 acre feet. By Nov. 1, Gardner said, only 61,000 acre feet will remain.
Without adequate winter water storage this year, he predicted, "We're stuck with 50 percent allocation for stockholders and the CUP."
If this year's drought conditions continue through next year, Sefakis said, water entities will have no choice but to establish restrictions in use of Deer Creek water. "We'll just take it one step at a time," he said.
Officials discussed the possibility of delaying Olmstead aqueduct repairs until spring, but CUP General Manager Don Christiansen said some repairs must be completed before winter. Critical repairs include welding aqueduct leaks and holes and raising the aqueduct, which is located along the Provo Canyon wall.
Lillian Hayes, representing the Utah County League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club, said it's time the CUP quit waiting for problems to turn into crises before working on solutions.
"I think it's about time you begin to look at the geology in Provo Canyon and realize what your problems are," she said of the aqueduct, which has been realigned many times and is currently several inches out of alignment. "It's just an indication of how stupid the CUP is."