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PANEL MULLS DAM ON BEAR RIVER

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A dam on the Bear River would help preserve the water quality downstream in Bear Lake, says a commission weighing the worth of such an impoundment.

Eleven Bear Lake Regional Commission members and municipal officials recently visited Rocky Point on the river about 10 miles south of Montpelier. The river flows through a narrow gap in the surrounding hills that would make an ideal spot for a dam.The wetlands in the Bear Lake Wildlife Refuge and Mud Lake have almost lost their ability to clean the water flowing into Bear Lake, and it will not be long before the lake suffers severe pollution, Bear Lake County Commissioner Dwight Cochran said.

Idaho and Utah established task forces dealing with the Bear River, which flows from Utah into Wyoming to Idaho and then back to Utah. Several groups have vested interests in the river. A dam that would provide irrigation water or flood control would be beneficial.

"The bottom line is someone has to control the total system up and down the river so the fill and release of water can be done in the most effective manner," said regional commission director Allan Harrison.

A dam 80 feet high would provide 300,000 acre-feet of water. The gap in the hill would serve as three sides for the dam.

The commission plans to draft a position statement and send it to all interested parties pressing for restraint on future development downstream until the dam proposal can be studied.