Proponents of a plan to divert river water from Spanish Fork Canyon to southern Utah County and Juab County are taking to the papers and the airwaves to tell their side of an ongoing controversy.
The recently formed Utah Water Coalition paid for newspaper ads and radio spots this week to explain how shipping the Central Utah Project water south "benefits everyone." At least one organization opposed to the project questions information in the ads.Coalition organizer Gordon Young, a rancher and former Juab County commissioner, said press reports about the issue have been one-sided. The coalition includes farmers, irrigation companies and water users. It has raised about $15,000, including $5,000 from the Utah and Juab county commissions.
"We're just trying to get a little bit of balance in the debate," he said.
Several environmental groups have argued since a well-publicized rally in Diamond Fork Canyon last September that the water should be sent to Salt Lake County. News stories appeared sporadically after that.
The Central Utah Water Conservancy District, as part of the 40-year-old, $2 billion CUP, intends to provide water to the two counties through the Spanish Fork-Nephi pipeline. The system includes construction of the $46 million Monks Hollow Dam on the Diamond Fork River.
The water would mostly be used for agriculture, although there would be some municipal and industrial uses as well.
The Utah Rivers Council, the Sierra Club's Utah Valley chapter and the Diamond Fork Alliance want the water turned north to the Wasatch Front. They prefer construction of a pipeline from Diamond Fork to the Provo River, where water could be channeled north through the Jordan Aqueduct.
They say that Juab County residents have paid just seven-tenths of 1 percent of the CUP's tax take over the past four decades, while Salt Lake County has paid 67 percent of the $300 million cost of building the dam and pipeline.
Young contends the media have paid more attention those organizations than they have to proponents of the project. He said his opinions are typically reduced to sound bites or given token space in news stories. The coalition is running advertisements to more fully explain its position, he said.
Zachary Frankel, Utah Rivers Council director and the project's most vocal critic, said the ads filled with "sweeping generalities" surprised and shocked him. "They just want to close the discussion," he said, adding that he's disappointed that the coalition uses taxpayer money.
The half-page newspaper ads in Monday's Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune lists six benefits the coalition believes the project would provide Utah, including cleaner air and better roads, more fresh foodstuffs, good jobs and recreational opportunities and helping alleviate world hunger.
"Isn't it miraculous that they're going to clean up our air by building a water project?" Frankel said. "What a crock."
The availability of CUP municipal and industrial water will provide growth opportunities in southern Utah County and Juab County, reducing traffic congestion and hence, pollution in Salt Lake and Utah valleys, according to the ad.
Proponents also argue that the system would supply enough irrigation water for 75,570 acres of farmland, opening a new greenbelt to replace the 400 square miles lost to urbanization and industrialization the past decade.