Salt Lake City has already committed as much as half of next year's water supply from Deer Creek Reservoir to help maintain Provo River flows, said Public Works Director LeRoy W. Hooton Jr.
Hooton said the city is releasing 30 cubic feet per second from Deer Creek rather than pumping wells inside the city to help bolster flows in the river to benefit the fishery.Hooton said Monday that streams used to supply water to the city are as low as they were during the drought in 1977. Releasing the city's stored water to benefit the Provo River fishery may put the city at risk if the current drought continues into next summer.
Hooton said a request from the sportsmen that Salt Lake City release even more water to bolster flows, declare a surplus so it can sell water in Salt Lake County and then promote conservation next summer to make up for the loss is unreasonable.
The Provo River flow level is the subject of a controversy that has caught the attention of national environmental groups and other federal officials.
Representatives of sportsmen's groups trying to protect flows in the river agree with water officials that the amount of water released into the river must drop because of current drought conditions; but the two groups do not agree on conditions that can precede a reduction in Provo River flows.
Both sides also agree that additional temporary water purchases are needed to reach an acceptable compromise flow, but an offering price has yet to be set.
While the fish-flow issue is of primary interest to the environmental community, Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said it is also an economic issue. There is little hope of getting a reauthorization bill through Congress next year for the Central Utah Project if the environmentalists are spurned.
Gerald K. Maloney, chairman of the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District, said releasing Deer Creek water now could leave his district able to deliver only half the water it has contracted to sell to its 19 customer agencies. Communities like Kearns and South Jordan that get all of their water from the county district would feel the total brunt of that 50 percent reduction next summer, he said.
Owens said the people issue of the water problem is important as the groups work together to find additional sources of water and work toward a compromise flow level on the river.
A National Environmental Policy Act component of the Central Utah Project's Bonneville Unit requires the Bureau of Reclamation to keep flows in the Provo River at 100 cubic feet per second.