Residents who have dreamed of getting water into the Sevier River Basin from the Central Utah Project may finally see their wishes fulfilled after 27 years.
A dispute between officials in south-central Utah counties and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District board of directors regarding payment of tax assessments has been settled, at least in part.Millard County commissioners threatened to withhold tax payments from the conservancy district until they were guaranteed that they would get water from the CUP. They have now decided to release the assessment money, except for 44 percent of the Intermountain Power Agency's tax assessment. That will be placed into escrow.
Officials of IPA, the entity that owns the gigantic power plant near Delta, say tax assessments are too high.
"We still have a lot of questions to be answered by the (conservancy district) board, but we are content to give them a vote of confidence and then get the answers," Millard County Commissioner Mike Styler told the Deseret News.
The protested amount is $407,000 - 44 percent of the $925,000 IPA owes in taxes for the CUP. The remaining 56 percent - $518,000 - along with the $135,000 Millard County regularly pays, will be remitted to the CUP. The protested amount will be put in escrow. "This will be released if and when approval is given by IPA," Styler said.
The county hasn't signed an agreement with water board members, but it appears funding to get the water into the Sevier River system may be forthcoming.
"One of our real concerns was when Congress said it wouldn't fund irrigation and drainage projects," Styler said. "We were afraid we would be left out in the cold (in getting CUP water), but we feel the CUP now has a financing source to get water into the Sevier Basin."
Officials now believe public power generated through the Colorado River Storage Project will pay for construction of irrigation and drainage projects. "If that source falls through, then we would have to look at alternatives," the commissioner said.
Counties in the upper and lower Sevier River basins have paid into the CUP for more than two decades without getting any water or much financial help with water projects.
Millard County has paid $135,000 annually in recent years. Other counties have likewise paid significant assessments. For example, a homeowner in Sevier County with a house valued at $70,000 pays about $15 a year into the CUP.
County commissioners have feared that the government might take over distribution of water in the Sevier system.
Styler said commissioners in the various counties want water exchanges by mutual agreement with the conservancy district. "We want the Sevier Water Users to remain in control."
Plans have called for CUP water to be pumped over a geographical "divide" south of Santaquin, Utah County, then flow by gravity into the Sevier Bridge Reservoir. It could then be used by farmers in Millard County. Those farmers would in turn relinquish part of the existing water rights they hold and transfer them into the upper basin.