Wasatch Supertunnel boosters came knocking on Gov. Norm Bangerter's door Tuesday looking for $150,000 to help launch a preliminary study to learn the feasibility of the ambitious project.
What they got was a pat on the back and a pledge of support. The cold hard cash will have to wait.While Bangerter expressed interest in how the $400 million project could benefit Utah, he stopped short of committing any state money for now.
Still, members of the Wasatch Supertunnel Agency viewed the meeting positively.
"I'm looking upon it favorably," said Gerald Maloney, chairman of the four-entity agency made up of Salt Lake County, Draper, Salt Lake County Service Area No. 3 and the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District.
It was the governor's first real look at the tunnel currently proposed to be constructed between Draper and Park City through 20 miles of solid Wasatch granite.
Proponents rattled off for Bangerter an impressive list of purposes the tunnel might serve:
Storing and conveying water to the Wasatch Front from Jordanelle Reservoir.
Transporting skiers to all the major Salt Lake area resorts by electric train.
Draining the now-flooded and idle Park City mining district.
Housing National Science Foundation research into neutrinos subatomic matter that cosmic ray physicists think may provide similar benefits to those the superconducting supercollider will unlock.
Creating a "clean" manufacturing environment for materials that need to be shielded from cosmic rays.
Generating hydroelectric power.
And they didn't even get around to mentioning the part about curing the common cold.
Bangerter questioned building one terminus of the tunnel in Draper and suggested locating it further north. But he was told that the Draper site, besides affording a portal east of the Wasatch Fault, also enjoys rail connections vital to mining and research.
After about 15 minutes of discussion, Bangerter finally asked: "How much do you want?"
Maloney told him the $150,000 from the state would serve as seed money generating additional money from a sometimes-reluctant private sector to pay for the preliminary feasibility study. Such a study will cost between $220,000 and $300,000.
The agency and its pedigreed professional staff, which includes heavyweights such as the law firm of Parsons, Behle and Latimer; Arthur Young & Co.; Boettcher & Co.; and the public relations firm of Dale Zabriskie and Associates, has operated thus far almost solely on in-kind contributions.
As he left, Bangerter told agency members to "carry on" and continue working with the state's Department of Community and Economic Development.
After meeting with the governor, Maloney, who also serves as chairman of the county conservancy district board, stressed that first and foremost, he sees the tunnel as a means of conveying "already appropriated" water from the Provo River basin to the Salt Lake Valley. He believes the tunnel would be an alternative to building another aqueduct similar to the Jordanelle Aqueduct still under construction as part of the Central Utah Project.
He also said recent squabbles the tunnel has triggered over water rights are important but shouldn't stand in the way of at least taking a careful look at the project.
"We could kill the project if we took all the `what ifs,' " Maloney said.
Agency members said they'll continue taking their presentation on the road to other government officials. Plans are to meet with the Salt Lake Council of Governments and the Park City Council in upcoming months.