Water officials and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, are publicizing a Bureau of Reclamation offer to buy irrigation water for $50 an acre-foot to supplement Provo River flows.
The bureau issued a statement Monday afternoon announcing it would buy up to 9,500 acre-feet on a one-time basis from anyone owning water that could be delivered into Deer Creek Reservoir.Owens even suggested Tuesday that water officials buy 30- to 60-second radio spots to publicize the offer. Owens, who has scrutinized the bureau and its handling of the Central Utah Project, said he will contact newspaper publishers and radio and television stations personally to help get the word out that the bureau needs the water.
Owens said the contacts would give him an opportunity to put election-day "nervous energy" to good use. The shock value of Owens' pitching for the bureau may help get the media attention the officials are looking for, he said.
Office personnel at the Central Utah Water Conservancy District stayed by the phones until midnight Monday waiting for calls but got only one - from the district's attorney, who owns water rights on the upper Provo River - said Don Christiansen, conservancy district general manager. The phones were staffed until midnight Tuesday as well, he said.
A coalition of sportsmen and water officials has met daily, altogether or in parts, since Wednesday when the bureau announced it would drop flows in the Provo River Monday from 100 cubic feet per second to about 56 cfs.
Clifford I. Barrett, regional director for the bureau in Salt Lake City, announced a change in the bureau's position Monday, saying the federal agency that oversees the CUP will continue to negotiate a change in Provo River flows to respond to drought emergencies this year. The bureau then plans to prepare an environmental assessment to govern river flows beginning next winter until Jordanelle Dam is completed and filled, probably 10 years from now.
Representatives of several sportsmen's groups are working with local, state and federal water officials to find irrigators that would be willing to make one-time water sales to bolster Provo River flows and protect the brown trout fishery that would suffer if the flows drop.
The coalition is working toward a compromise flow level for this winter. Kirt Carpenter, manager of the bureau's Utah Project's office in Provo, suggested the river be cut immediately to the proposed compromise flow of 85 cfs to conserve water that will be needed to meet streamflows later.
Both Owens and Kenley Brunsdale, chairman of the Utah Roundtable of Sportsmen and Conservationists, objected to dropping flows until a written agreement is in force. "We need a memo of understanding first," Owens said. "We have to have something that shows a fairness and an across-the-board cooperation."
Brunsdale said he's received "pretty positive" responses for about 2,000 acre-feet.