A suggestion by Utah County Commissioner Brent Morris that Central Utah Project water not be delivered to areas south of Utah County has raised the ire of the Utah Farm Bureau.
Ken Ashby, president of the Farm Bureau, said Millard County officials and water users in the Sevier River basin are not going to sit idly by and watch the CUP's irrigation system evaporate."Water is a vital link in the survival of rural south-central Utah's agricultural economy and in the development of this area generally." He said the farm and ranch community would not give up the CUP water it has been promised without a fight.
Congress has balked at funding the 123,300 acre-foot irrigation system, and a plan to finance water system construction by increasing the mill levy for hydroelectric power from federal dams is in the advanced stages.
During a meeting conducted last week by Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, Morris said the CUP's yet-to-be built irrigation feature is an economic farce and suggested the water be developed for culinary uses in Salt Lake County instead.
Lopping the irrigation system from the rest of the CUP has been actively considered for more than a year. Last fall, the Millard County Commission threatened to withhold taxes from the CUP's state sponsor, the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, unless progress on the irrigation system was made soon.
"The bottom line of that was to just get some attention," Ashby said. "We weren't just going to lie down and let them do whatever they wanted to."
The idea of returning CUP taxes to the CUP's southern counties and eliminating the irrigation system has also been bantered around by aides to Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, although Ashby said he has commitments from Owens and the rest of the Utah congressional delegation that they will work to see the irrigation system built.
Nielson said he could go along with a plan to convert irrigation water to culinary water only if all of the players agreed - including Salt Lake County residents, who would have to pay the irrigation feature's sunk development costs.
Water users in the Delta area agreed to sell water they already had to the Intermountain Power Project only after Bureau of Reclamation officials assured them CUP water would be available as a replacement, Ashby said. "The CUP was a factor in their deciding to sell."