Possible Bear River Development Project reservoir sites discussed

LOGAN – To discuss the future of Cache Valley’s water, a presentation by the Utah Division of Water Resources was held Wednesday afternoon on Utah State University’s campus that focused on the development of 220,000 acre-feet of Bear River water and the possibility of new reservoirs in Northern Utah the Cache Valley area.

According to Marisa Egbert, project manager of Utah Division of Water Resources, Utah has very limited water and an expected doubling of population by 2060. The Bear River Development Project is supposed to help Cache Valley handle that growth.

Egbert said conservation, optimization and conversion of agricultural water are several solutions already in progress to the state’s water problem. Even though those efforts are helping, it isn’t enough.

“That will take care of 47 percent of the water that is needed for this new population,” she said.

Other local projects will account for another 13 percent of what is needed. In addition to Utah, the Bear River runs through Wyoming and Idaho. Utah’s allotment – and how to develop it – is what the Division of Water Resources is looking at to fill the rest of the state’s need.

“We are evaluating the feasibility of some reservoir sites,” Egbert said. “We are not evaluating a reservoir site that’s about to be built tomorrow. We’re evaluating the feasibility of reservoir sites that could fit into this plan.”

Seven potential sites for new reservoirs were discussed during the presentation.

“One of the first things we did in the study was look at every available reservoir site in Utah below Bear Lake, upstream of Willard Bay,” said Mike Collins, project manager for the Division of Water Resources. “We looked at 45 different sites … some were wild and crazy but we didn’t want to eliminate any potential reservoir site. We looked at everything.”

Collins said not all reservoirs will be built, but two or three would probably be constructed to fill the allocated 220,000 acre-feet supply. Cache County would receive 60,000 acre-feet of the allotment.

The first option discussed was called Above Cutler Reservoir and would be located just upstream from the current Cutler Reservoir. It would back water up the Bear River through Cache County toward the Idaho border and have storage of about 51,000 acre-feet.

The second site was named the Cub River Reservoir and would be placed above the spot where the Cub River enters the Bear River. It would hold 27,000 acre-feet of water.

The third option is called Fielding Reservoir and would be constructed just below Cutler Reservoir. Its storage capacity would be about 36,000 acre-feet. Collins said it would go to the base of the Cutler Reservoir.

Collins called the next potential site Temple Fork Reservoir and said it is a “high reservoir” located in Temple Fork Canyon. It would have approximately 40,000 acre-feet of storage.

The fifth site discussed was the Washakie Reservoir. According to Collins, the Washakie site was “studied extensively by the Division” previous to the Bear River Development Project. Collins called it an “awful” and “expensive” reservoir site, but it would store 158,000 acre-feet.

Collin’s called the potential White’s Valley Reservoir site a “perfect reservoir site.” It would be located along I-84 on the way to Idaho and would store 170,000 acre-feet. The problem is the water would need to be pumped in because it is located about 1,000 feet higher than the Bear River. Collins said that if saddle dams were added, the capacity could be increased to more than 220,000 acre-feet.

The last site discussed was Weber Bay. Collins said would be “very similar” to Willard Bay and be located just north of it. It would store about 124,000 acre-feet, but it would interfere with the bird refuge.

According to Collins, the Division is currently performing studies at the six sites that have not been investigated. Issues such as environmental issues and water rights are also being looked into.

Collins said the state’s portion of the project is estimated at $1.5 billion. The Jordan Valley and Weber Basin portion of the costs would bring the total to about $2 billion.

“It seems like a lot of money,” Collins said. “But 220,000 acre-feet on a cost per acre-foot basis, it’s a pretty reasonable cost.”

Collins said the project will probably take at least 20 years to develop.

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