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Without winter, there is no water

By Richard Shaw

I think almost everyone in the area took a collective sigh of relief this weekend that the storms that were hitting northern Utah didn’t much visit themselves upon us here in Carbon County.
It wasn’t more snow that I was worried about, but downpours like they were getting in the Cache Valley, Brigham City and Tremonton. The flooding that took place with the rain on a melting snow pack there could just as well have taken place here. We just got that drizzle for a couple days and I was relieved when the sun came out that I wouldn’t have to be fighting to keep water out of my basement once again.
We had a great Indian Summer last fall, with warm weather clear up through Thanksgiving and a little beyond. But then it got cold and by Christmas there was a good deal of snow on the ground. For the past decade there has only been a couple of winters when the snow went beyond those few inches we had here in the valley in late December.
Then came January, and I am not telling anyone of you anything new in the fact that we really got hit. Every day it snowed I measured the new snow that had fallen. I did that from January 2 through the end of the last snow storm at the beginning of February and I measured over 36 inches of snow during that time at my house.
Talking to people who have lived around here a lot longer than I have, most said that is the most snow that has fallen in the lower altitudes here since the winter before the Billy’s Mountain slide in 1983.
Overall I really like winter. I enjoy the snow and even the cold, when the temperature doesn’t drop below 10 degrees. But I hate the ice that we get from the freeze/thaw cycles. And when snow falls on top of ice, well that is really a mess and dangerous too. Cleaning walks around my house, trying to get snow off the roofs of my home, my garage and my outbuildings was a task which amounted to 15 minutes of moving snow and 30 minutes of recuperation from falling on my rear end during the actual labor time. I aggravated old injuries including one of my bad knees and a shoulder problem I have had since 1976 when I flew off my dirt bike breaking my clavicle while on a trail in the desert west of Salt Lake.
Regardless of this, I pretty much like winter for two reasons.

A Californian dreaming of winter

I lived in southern California in the late 1980s and they can say what they want about the nice weather there, but I found it really boring. That is except for the time a Pacific hurricane’s remnants came through Orange county and the palm trees were bending horizontal in that tropical breeze. Mostly however, winter there meant the grass turned a different color of green, and that was about it. That’s okay for many people (obviously nearly 40 million people live there, another thing I was not enamored with) but not for me. I really missed the seasons. Call me crazy, but that is how I feel.
The winter here, a good strong snowfall winter like we had this year, brings up my second point. It means that next summer we don’t have to worry about where the next drop of water is coming from. And if this winter even continues on a normal pace, based on the water that is already in the snow pack in the mountains, it will be a banner year, with more water flowing into Scofield Reservoir than has in many years.
But we should not be fooled into thinking this winter is what we are going to get from now on. I would bet, based on the way things have gone the last 15 years, that next winter we might be wondering where all the snow is. And of course, maybe not. It is a roll of the dice from year to year, and something we really can’t control.
What we can control however, is how much water we use this summer. Scofield Reservoir is most of western Carbon County’s ace in the hole when it comes to drought. And we are still in one until we get a few more years of good snow. We must not only control our water use however, but we must also not forget that if the Gooseberry Project ever gets built above Fairview, dry years like the last few could be real disasters.
At the most recent meeting of the Carbon County Transportation and Recreation Special Service District, while discussion was going on about the new soccer fields that are being built at the Carbon County Fairgrounds, the issue of watering more and more sod in the area came up. Richard Lee, the President of the Carbon County Water Conservancy District is also a board member on the CCTRSSD and he pointed out that without the 5,400 acre feet of water that would be taken by the Gooseberry Reservoir, should it have been built by now, the area would have really been in trouble.
“Without that water I don’t know what would have happened,” he said. “And no one is discussing it anymore. No one is talking about it since the move to build the project has quieted down some.”
He is right; we need to talk about it and be concerned about it. After almost 80 years of on again and off again construction plans, with legislative action and judicial decisions still in force and others in the making, those of us who live in this county need to realize that the water we treasure, that is a more powerful economic force in this county than any other, could go away tomorrow without the right moves and right political support.

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