LOGAN -- If residents of Box Elder and Cache counties don't approve of building a dam on the Bear River, it probably won't happen, a top state water official says.
"If you don't want a dam in these two counties, it won't be built," Larry Anderson, chairman of the Utah Water Resources Board, told those attending a public hearing Thursday at Utah State University.More than 120 residents gathered to discuss the proposed $350 million project water developers say is necessary to serve northern Utah through the 21st century.
Most were eager to decry the project, which would eventually require a reservoir in Box Elder or Cache County.
The plan, as proposed by the water board Thursday, would divert water from Bear River into Willard Bay, modify the bay's existing operation to allow for water to Salt Lake City, construct conveyance and treatment facilities and, finally, require the construction of a dam on the river.
But the proposal says dams "would only be constructed when the Bear River Water Conservancy District and/or Cache County water users need the water and are willing to contract for it."
The state Division of Water Resources contends more dams on the Bear River are needed to comply with the Legislature's 1991 Bear River Development Act, which calls for storing 200,000 more acre-feet of water from the river. An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land with water 1 foot deep.
The division is considering two alternatives: one to erect the Honeyville dam and another near Amalga to hold 100,000 acre-feet of water each, another to hold all the water at the Amalga reservoir.
Elwood residents argued Thursday that farms and homes that have been in families for generations would be lost if the Honeyville dam is built.
Those in the town of 700 who would not lose their homes said the water table would be pushed so high, septic tanks would be worthless and basements would flood.
Some pleaded for board members to find alternative sources of water.
"We haven't learned to conserve. There's a great water resource right there," said Elwood Mayor Greg Iverson.