The first draft proposal for the Uintah Basin Replacement Project has languished for months without a consensus, but a second draft proposal for the operation of the water storage projects is slated for review this week and possible approval by the end of this month.
The clock is running out on the proposed Uinta and Upalco Units which would store water for irrigators and culinary water users in Duchesne and Uintah counties. The Uintah Basin Replacement Project is part of the Central Utah Project Completion Act. So far, primary water users, secondary water users and the federal government haven't been able to reach an accord that will allow the projects - which are already funded - to proceed as planned.But Duchesne County Commission Chairman Larry Ross says he feels very positive that concerns tied to the first draft proposal will be alleviated when a second draft proposal is constructed to address questions that secondary water users have about their water rights.
During a meeting last week in Duchesne, representatives from the Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Department of Interior, Dry Gulch Irrigation, Moon Lake Water Users Association and the newly formed Duchesne County Water Conservancy District were able to sit down together for the first time to hash out differences of opinions and address specific concerns.
Ross said he felt the meeting was an encouraging step towards meeting the summer deadline looming over the water storage projects.
"Generally speaking, from the discussions, everyone anticipates moving forward. It was very positive. It was something that needed to take place that hadn't taken place," Ross said.
The second draft proposal will address concerns and offer options to three sensitive issues including moving secondary water rights down from the high mountain lakes to be stored in the federal water projects, in-stream or "fish flow" regulations, and priority water rights held by the Ute Tribe.
Water users wholeheartedly accept the tribe's right to have three acre-feet on the stream flows, but question their priority rights when it comes to stored water, Ross explained, adding that the new draft proposal "will attempt to treat that in a way that will not stop the project."
The Central Utah Water Conservancy District will write the second draft proposal, said Ross.