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BEAR LAKE GROUP PETITIONS FOR MUD CLEANUP

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The grass-roots group Love Bear Lake has launched a petition drive asking Utah Power to clean up the mess caused by the rupture of a company-owned dike.

Love Bear Lake members say the dike between Mud Lake and Bear Lake was an accident waiting to happen and that its 1993 break coated the lake's north end with slimy mud that still clouds the water.The group's corresponding secretary Eulalie Langford of Montpelier, Idaho, said Love Bear Lake has been asking the company to clean up the silt since the 1993 spill and now wants Utah Power to use suction dredging.

Langford said the petition drive has netted hundreds of signatures.

Utah Power spokesman Dave Eskelsen said that weeks before the rupture, engineers examined the dike and concluded that failure was not imminent even though it was due for replacement.

He said that once the dike broke, the company followed the instructions of an environmental consultant, the Department of Natural Resources and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Another dike was in place within 10 days.

Eskelsen said suction dredging would be expensive and unnecessary.

"The general finding from those sources is that it would probably be less disruptive to let the sand from the wave action on that part (of the lake) cover the sediment," he said.

Eskelsen said the petition drive is another move from a group that openly opposes using Bear Lake as a reservoir for Bear River water users.

"Utah Power has tried to be sensitive to those issues, but there are people that have a right to the water that is stored in Bear Lake," he said.

Langford said the lake belongs to the states of Idaho and Utah.

In 1993, Love Bear Lake petitioned Congress, asking that the lake's function as a reservoir be stopped. Since then, Love Bear Lake members have worked with Idaho Sens. Dirk Kempthorne and Larry Craig to find other reservoir sites as an alternative, she said.

Langford contends that Bear River water, which is diverted into Bear Lake via Mud Lake, is changing the lake's chemistry as well as its clarity.

She said that when the dike broke in 1993, 75 years of accumulated sediment was released.