ALTAMONT, Duchesne County — An estimated 130 property owners will be contacted over the next 12 months and asked to sell their recreational, farm and pasture land to make room for the expansion of Big Sandwash Reservoir. The reservoir is about 5 miles southeast of Altamont.

Appraisals will soon be conducted on property that will be inundated with water or otherwise affected when the size of the reservoir grows from 12,000 acre-feet to 24,000 acre-feet. Some land west of the reservoir will need to be acquired due to the realignment of U-87 — another part of the expansion plan.

Approximately an additional 300 acres will be required when the reservoir is enlarged to allow water storage for irrigation, culinary and municipal use. The majority of the acreage is used as farm and pasture land, while most of the parcels surrounding the lake are used as recreation property.

The Big Sandwash enlargement is part of the Uintah Basin Replacement Project (UBRP), a $47 million water storage project. Sixty-five percent of the project will be funded by the federal government through the Central Utah Project Completion Act, with the balance funded by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

Phase one of the project, which involves construction of a diversion structure to move river flows year-round from Lake Fork River into an adjoining pipeline, got under way in April.

To prepare for actual construction of the reservoir, scheduled to begin this November, the federal government must acquire property mainly on the north and west sides of the reservoir. Moon Lake Water Users Association owns most of the ground on the south and east and the existing reservoir.

After the property is appraised, acquisition documents are drawn up and the federal government makes an offer to the property owner, explained Kirk Beecher, project manager for the UBRP Big Sandwash Enlargement phase.

If the property owner and federal government are unable to come to a negotiated agreement on price, then the matter goes to court under condemnation proceedings. However, this is always a last resort, Beecher said.

"We try to resolve everything we can before it gets to that . . . condemnation usually takes longer and there are bad feelings all the way around."

Property required for the construction must be acquired before November. All other property must be sold to the Bureau of Reclamation before the reservoir fills.

"We are planning on bidding the enlargement of the reservoir on Nov. 5, so we would need everything in place for those parcels required for construction and the others no more than a year after that," Beecher said.

The project plan includes the stabilization of 13 high Uinta Mountain lakes, enlargement of Big Sandwash Reservoir, modification to the Moon Lake outlet works, construction of the Big Sandwash Roosevelt pipeline and the new Big Sandwash feeder diversion structure and pipeline, as well as development of fish and wildlife mitigation/enhancements.