Water report calls for cooperation
March 18, 2006
Weighing in on a longstanding dispute about who will provide water to thirsty western Summit County residents for the next 50 years, the federal government recommends City Hall cooperate with Summit County to import water from the Weber River.
With the population in Snyderville and Park City expected to triple to 85,000 by 2050, local decision-makers are rushing to secure a stable long-term water supply for Park City residents. Responding to requests from Park City officials, several years ago Congress ordered the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to study the feasibility of different pipelines proposed in western Summit County.
The non-binding report states that expanding Summit County’s existing Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline would be the most efficient way to meet Park City’s "immediate and critical need for 2,500 acre feet of water per year."
The pipeline was originally constructed to deliver water from the Weber River near Rockport Reservoir to the gated Promontory subdivision in Snyderville. To the chagrin of the private Summit Water Distribution Company, however, the project is now poised to become a primary source for Park City, instead of Summit Water’s larger proposed East Canyon Pipeline.
"It’s what we had in mind when we constructed this first phase of the Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said. "We think this will be a long-term solution we’re looking forward to making that happen as soon as possible."
Summit Water and Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District compete for customers. Both sides were banking on the Bureau of Reclamation endorsing their respective pipeline plans.
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Summit Water officials are pursuing permits for a pipeline to deliver water from East Canyon Reservoir in Morgan County to its Jeremy Ranch treatment plant.
"They came to us because we can take an objective, independent look. We don’t have anything to gain by going one way or the other, looking at one project over another," said Brent Rhees, deputy area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation.
He stresses that both pipelines are needed to supply the 17,100 acre feet of water necessary to accommodate expected growth. But the bureau isn’t seeking federal funding for an importation project in Snyderville.
"This is a local deal," Rhees said. "Right now, there is no federal funding in the mix."
Without the ability to increase surface water or groundwater supplies on the West Side, installing less then three feet of additional pipeline and some extra pumping capacity at Lost Creek Canyon could provide Park City residents the quickest remedy to the threat of a water crisis, he added.
"We’ve been using reserves to meet the demand," Rhees said, adding that the top priority of the study was "to look and see what needs to be done to get water to Park City."
By 2030, though, Basin residents will need more water than the Lost Creek Canyon pipeline can provide, he said.
"In light of what may have happened in the past, both of these pipelines are needed for the future," Rhees said. "I’m not sure whether they’ll take it to heart or not, but it really needs to happen."
But most of the roughly 5,000 acre feet of water county officials intend to import from the East Side is likely earmarked for Park City and Promontory. The bulk of the water 12,100 acre feet — expected to be necessary to supply Snyderville for the next four decades should come from East Canyon Reservoir, the study states.
Meanwhile, Park City officials are pleased with the report.
"Summit County, Mountain Regional and Park City look forward to working together with the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District to immediately implement [the] recommendation to expand the Lost Creek Canyon project," a March 16 press release from Park City Municipal states.
Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme acknowledged the entities must also work with Summit Water.
"Somewhere along the line we’re all going to have to come together. That’s going to have to happen if we ever solve all the problems," Woolstenhulme said. "If we can’t come together on these issues we’re just going to continually drive a wedge between all of the jurisdictions in the county."
Summit Water Distribution Company spokesman John Flitton also hinted that cooperation would be necessary.
"Both projects are needed, that’s absolutely clear. The demand far outpaces either project’s ability to meet in the next 50 years," Flitton said. "Summit Water has always viewed itself as being the provider of the long-term needs of the Snyderville Basin."
Summit Water officials are pleased the report identifies the East Canyon Pipeline as a possible source for 70 percent of Snyderville’s future water needs, he said.
"Overall, we’re very pleased with the study it’s been an uphill battle for a long time," Flitton said. "The Bureau of Reclamation really validated what we have long been advocating, and that is an importation project that would secure the needs of the Basin."