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For years, farmers and ranchers along the Duchesne River have used rocks and log dams to divert water into their irrigation and watering canals.

Many of the structures are temporary and ineffective against the river, particularly during low flows. And during high flows, many of them have been washed out by the river, or its swift water has cut channels around them.As the Central Utah Project is completed, the flow of the river is expected to be consistently lower, thus the homemade diversions will be less effective.

Moreover, Bob Morgan, state water engineer, has determined that future diversions will not be allowed unless water users develop permanent diversion structures with measuring devices and seek permits to alter the flow of the stream.

Morgan said Tuesday that water users along the river have flow rights during the irrigation season, but most people have no means of measuring the water they are using.

"They need to be able to control their diversions and they need to be able to measure what they take. It's kind of like Chuck-A-Rama. Take all you want to eat but eat all you take," Morgan said.

The change of policy met with some resistance, he said.

"It was sort of like when you had cut back from 65 mph to 55 mph. People don't like it. It was handled in several public meetings. It was discussed. They knew it was coming. They don't like to spend money. They don't like to do this, but it is also the law," Morgan said.

So the water users have asked the Central Utah Water Conservancy District for help.

Of the 26 river diversions identified in a recent survey, only three were considered permanent structures. Replacing all of the structures with either concrete or riprap diversions would cost nearly $1.5 million, according to a survey prepared by the engineering firm of Franson-Noble & Associates Inc.

"A lot of these structures are small, temporary structures with no head gates so there's very little control over what happens there," said engineer Richard Noble.

Noble said the cost of upgrading the structures was based on 1989 construction prices and includes measuring devices to determine water usage.

The district's board of directors is considering the request but would like the water users to participate in the cost of the new diversions.