At least 90 percent of the water which will be available through the proposed Uintah and Upalco Units of the Uintah Basin Replacement Project must have been contracted out by the end of April if the federal government is to consider funding the costly storage projects that are part of the Central Utah Project Completion Act.
Central Utah Water Conservancy District representatives have been in Duchesne and Uintah Counties during April taking applications and meeting with water users to detail what they can expect by signing up to purchase the federal water at the going rate of $10 per acre-foot."This is an application that will become a contract," explained Terry Holzworth, UBRP manager. "It is not binding but is needed to show the Department of Interior that there is enough interest to go forward with the project." Water users who contacted his office prior to April 30 are eligible to apply. Final contracts will be sold later this year.
By mid-April, only 2,991.5 acre-feet, or less than one-third of the water predicted to be available on the Upalco Unit in Duchesne County, had been applied for. Approximately 8,460 acre-feet of the 9,400 acre-feet available as non-Indian shares had to be contracted to meet the 90 percent goal on the U-pal-co Unit, says Holzworth.
On the Uintah Unit in Uintah County, about 2,966 acre-feet of water were still be sold to meet the 90 percent requirement. The units can be built independently of each other in the event the required water sales aren't achieved.
Holzworth believes it's still realistic that both units can be built, even though time is running out to meet the 1997 deadline, and environmental impact statements aren't yet completed.
He recently met with "several big water users who have indicated an interest" in applying for water shares from the Upalco Unit, and was schedule to meet with Uintah Unit water users.
"The majority of the people who are coming in don't care what it will cost. They say `my grandfather said if you can get some more water, then get it.' If this is any indication, we'll be all right."
But there may be too many water users, at least on the Upalco Unit, who see things differently. Critics of the Upalco Unit say planners ignored their input throughout the extensive "scoping" process and haven't given them any room for negotiation.
Unlike the Uintah Unit, where water users could see up to an additional 0.8 of an acre-foot of water, on the Upalco Unit there would only be an additional 0.2 to 0.4 of an acre-foot available.
That's not enough to convince irrigators that it's worth being indebted to the federal government for 40 years.
Don Winterton, Class D director for Dry Gulch Irrigation, and a member of the Moon Lake Water Users Board of Directors, has gone on record as being opposed to the Upalco Unit because of its lack of benefit to Duchesne County irrigators.
"We're just going to end up buying the water we already have," he stated. "They're not promising us enough water to make any difference."
Winterton feels that UBRP officials should have made more of an effort to negotiate with large water companies in Duchesne County like they did with the Ute Tribe, the major user of the Uintah Unit.
"I don't blame the tribe for wanting the very best they can get, but I do resent that we were not allowed the privilege of negotiations."
But Holzworth says there never was room for negotiations with irrigators on either unit because of "cost benefit ratios."
"The bottom line is do you want something or nothing? We can go in and negotiate water away all day, but we lose our project," he said. "It's a fact of life that we need to recognize if we shift more towards irrigators than to the tribe, we lose the economic benefit."
The federal government is willing to lend financial support to the UBRP primarily because of the Ute Tribe, to whom they are indebted for use of their water in the CUP's Bonneville Unit.
Officials are still tallying the totals to see whether enough contracts were signed to receive federal aid.