After years of controversy, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Wednesday will award a $79.8 million contract to a California firm to finally complete the Jordanelle Dam - the keystone of the Central Utah Project's Bonneville Unit.
The news came just as Gov. Norm Ban-gerter and Republican members of the Utah's congressional delegation continued legal and political battles over the dam by writing a letter defending plans for it to Utah County Commissioner Brent Morris.Morris had called for construction of the dam to be delayed while courts determine whether enough available water rights exist in the Provo River to fill the dam and still fulfill all Provo City water rights.
Mary Flynn, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Reclamation in Washington, D.C., said the $78,729,804 contract is scheduled to be awarded Wednesday to Granite Construction of Watsonville, Calif., for construction of the dam itself. Foundations for the dam were covered in previous contracts.
Overall cost of the dam project - including land acquisition and relocation of highways - is expected to be $240 million to $245 million, said Barry Wirth, spokesman for the bureau's Upper Colorado Region office in Salt Lake City.
"This contract will carry Jordanelle to its completion," Wirth said. "It's a very, very big moment for us. The Jordanelle Dam is really what makes the Bonneville Unit work."
The Bonneville Unit is a system of dams and aqueducts that will divert water from eastern Utah that normally would drain into the Colorado River to the Wasatch Front.
The Jordanelle Dam is located on the Provo River about six miles north of Heber City and will have about two times the capacity of the existing Deer Creek Reservoir - which is also on the Provo just below Heber.
The Jordanelle Dam has faced furious opposition over the years from environmentalists and mining companies and most recently from Utah County politicians such as Morris.
Bangerter and the Republican congressional delegation, who have worried such opposition could threaten CUP funding in Congress, wrote a letter to Morris - which was released Tuesday - saying they feel Morris has nothing about which to worry.
"With respect to the issue of Jordanelle Reservoir, we remain united in the conviction that this important water-storage reservoir . . . must be completed as planned," their letter said.
"The reservoir can and will be filled with water in such a manner that all water-right holders along the Provo River will remain protected."
The letter concluded, "We believe that it is vitally important that we Utahns work together to resolve differences which may arise concerning the project."