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A plan to upgrade and repair the 30-year-old Weber Basin Water Project has passed a crucial first test.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has concluded that no significant environmental impacts will result from the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District's proposed "Rehabilitation and Betterment" plan."None of the (plan's) alternatives . . . would significantly affect the quality of the human environment," according to a finding released by the bureau.

The Weber Basin project provides much of Davis County's water.

"(The find) is a plus for us," said water district manager Ivan Flint. "Now our plan has to go to Washington to get funded."

If Congress approves the appropriation, the district could receive as much as $21 million in long-term government loans to upgrade the system - a project that is estimated to cost $32 million.

The other $12 million must come from the district, which has funds earmarked for the project, Flint said.

As a result of the earmarked funds and the terms of the long-term loan, the upgrade plan probably would not increase water prices.

It might, however, require a small increase in "turnout" fees, or the base service charge each customer pays.

The district's plan calls for 11 projects. The main ones would:

- Repair the Stoddard Diversion Dam on the Weber River west of Morgan.

- Build a new settling basin at the beginning of the Gateway Canal farther down the river.

- Repair and replace the lining of the Gateway Canal where necessary.

- Replace the Willard Canal subcanals, or "laterals," with buried concrete pipe.

- Clean out deposits of silt from much of the Weber and Davis aqueducts.

- Build a new equalizing reservoir east of Centerville.

The largest project would be the Gateway Canal, which needs a $12 million overhaul because of landslide damage it has sustained over the years, Flint said.

The 8.5-mile canal runs from the Stoddard Dam on the Weber River to a point near Mountain Green, Morgan County, where it feeds water into a tunnel that carries the water to the Davis and Weber aqueducts.

With a capacity of 700 cubic feet per second, the Gateway Canal transports about 75 percent of the water used by Weber Basin customers.

Unstable soil has caused it to slip.

A washout of the canal would cause extensive flooding and water shortages in Davis and Weber counties, Flint said.


(Additional information)

Of eagles and falcons

The Bureau of Reclamation has given the Weber Basin "betterment" plan an environmentally clean bill of health - but not without some concerns that will require special attention.

Peregrine falcons and bald eagles, both endangered species, use the area east of the Great Salt Lake for roosting and nesting.

Bald eagles also use trees along the Weber River where the plan to upgrade the Gateway Canal will disturb about 15 acres of riparian area.

In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned about protecting wetlands along the Gateway Canal project.