The Ute Indian Tribe is supporting a proposal to dedicate over 3,200 acres of reservation land and at least 8,000 acre-feet of tribal water toward a wetlands mitigation project in the Uinta Basin, the Department of the Interior announced Monday.
A proposal in the final environmental impact statement for the Lower Duchesne River Wetlands Mitigation Project calls for restoring, creating and enhancing wetlands and reintroducing Duchesne River water into old oxbow reaches of the river. Under the plan, crews would also rip out invasive weed species and replant areas with native vegetation. About 1,600 acres of private land would also be included in the project.
The wetlands and wildlife habitat intended to benefit from the project had originally suffered due to construction of the Bonneville Unit of the Central Utah Project, which diverts water from the Duchesne River through a network of dams, tunnels and stream diversions that directs water to Strawberry Reservoir. The reservoir delivers water to the Wasatch Front through tunnels that empty into the Diamond Fork drainage in Utah County.
Much of the Ute's tribal water over the years has been diverted for the Central Utah Project, harming riparian habitat and impacting wetlands. The tribe is the senior water rights holder in the river. Upon completion of the mitigation project, the proposal calls for the Ute Indian Tribe to manage the lands for fish and wildlife in partnership with a mitigation commission.A final decision on the proposal listed in the impact statement is expected from the Department of the Interior within the next 30 days.