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District allowed to protest dam

If the Sanpete Water Conservancy District is going to build its $17.5 million Narrows Dam Project, it will have to overcome opposition from its neighbors to the east.

U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball has ruled that a 1984 agreement between Sanpete and Carbon water districts does not prevent Carbon officials from protesting Sanpete's plans to build a dam across Gooseberry Creek in the mountains east of Fairview.Sanpete officials want to divert about 5,400 acre-feet of water annually from the proposed 17,000-acre-feet Narrows reservoir west through a tunnel in the mountains to north Sanpete County for municipal and irrigation uses.

Carbon County water officials say the project would deplete their county's water supply. Gooseberry Creek flows into Scofield Reservoir, which provides much of Carbon County's water.

When Sanpete water officials began planning work on the project in the early '90s, Carbon officials became quite vocal in opposing the project. Sanpete officials responded with a federal lawsuit claiming Carbon officials had reneged on the 1984 agreement. They said the size and location of the Narrows Project was altered in exchange for Carbon officials' agreement not to protest permits for the project.

Carbon water officials argued they could still protest the application process.

Sanpete officials have already applied for more than $11 million in federal loans to help fund the project. The Bureau of Reclamation is preparing an environmental impact statement on the project.

After hearing testimony during a trial last month, Kimball ruled June 3 against Sanpete's claims. He said the Carbon Water Conservancy District will not breach the 1984 agreement by exercising its rights under the National Environmental Policy Act or by participating in the political process related to the Narrows Project.

The judge also ruled the Carbon water district can participate with the Carbon Water Committee in commenting on the environmental impact statement and the permit applications needed under the federal Clean Water Act. The water district can also express any concerns it has to state, private or federal agencies or funding sources involved in the project.

Kimball also ruled Carbon officials can participate in a federal lawsuit filed by the Utah Wilderness Association and Utah Rivers Council against the secretary of Interior and Bureau of Reclamation. The suit claims the environmental impact statement on the Narrows Project does not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.