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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: There are good reasons to reconsider building a dam on the White River

By Mel Coonrod

Over the last several weeks I have had numerous Price and Carbon County citizens call me to voice their displeasure with the Garley Wash proposed reservoir.
As a result of these calls and my own misgivings relative to the project I have been in contact with Johansen & Tuttle Engineering firm in Emery County. This firm has engineered numerous dams and similar projects throughout Utah, recently completing a small 10,000 acre foot dam/reservoir in Emery County.
In our discussions came to light that in the late 1990’s a feasibility study was conducted for, at that time, the “Price/Wellington Canal Company” to determine the best place and way to store high water for use during drought periods.
The White River was and still is the best alternative. A dam on White River above the confluence of the Price River could be constructed to retain well in excess of the 10,000 acre feet the Garley Wash project could provide. In fact, a series of small reservoirs along the upper reaches of the White River could provide additional water, fishing and recreation opportunities and may cost less than six miles of two sixty inch pipelines.
The fact Garley Wash was selected overall other alternatives makes me concerned as to the motivation and logic.
The White River alternative is so apparent it makes one wonder why this alternative was not selected?
In the 1990’s the political situation in Washington made it very difficult, if not impossible, to dam a flowing stream. Today, that political position has changed considerably with tentative plans to build hydro-electric facilities in several locations in the US as well as water retention dams.
A reservoir on the White River would eliminate:
(1) Several miles of pipeline
(2) Eliminate the risk to home owners below Garley Wash
(3) Save several hundred acres of critical elk and mule deer habitat.
(4) Enhance wildlife habitat rather than destroy nesting raptor habitat.
(5) Would appear to cost less
(6) Have already had extensive studies by an engineering firm with wide experience in dam construction.
(7) The Price River is a natural delivery system.
(8) Would improve the Price River fishery with higher flows during periods of drought.
(9) Enhance the potential kayak run in the Price River through Helper, rather than impact it.
(10) Reduce sediment in the existing canals, water treatment plant and piped irrigation systems.
(11) Minimize impacts to T&E fish in the Price, Green and Colorado rivers by providing a more uniform flow during periods of spawning.
I am sure there are many more logical justifications to this alternative. Perhaps that is why our elected officials don’t like it!
I spoke to a major land owner in the area who owns considerable water rights in White River and he indicated he was willing to sit down and discuss the possibility of the reservoir on his property. I feel is alternative be given the same consideration as the Garley Wash project with equal funding with alternative engineering firms. The last time I checked I believe that was the recommended way to allocate tax dollars!
I’m sure most of our elected officials are familiar with fair and open bidding, even if they don’t practice it.
If you feel this has merit contact your elected officials and ask them for realistic reasons this is not being evaluated and give whatever they say to an alternative engineering firm to concur or reject their conclusions.
Mel Coonrod

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