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FOX & CRESCENT LAKES, UPPER UINTA RIVER, FACE HEAVY MACHINES IN THE HIGH UINTAS WILDERNESS

BEFORE APRIL 23, please email your comments to: dfrew@fs.fed.us. Your wild voice is once again needed in the form of comments on the Fox and Crescent Lake Reservoir proposed reconstruction within the High Uintas Wilderness (HUW). Scoping comments are due by April 23 and should be emailed to dfrew@fs.fed.us.This is important, even though it is early in the process. Make your voice vigorous!

On the heels of a hopeful effort to remove and stabilize the 13 small turn-of-the-century reservoirs on the Lake Fork and Yellowstone drainages within the High Uintas Wilderness, the Dry Gulch Irrigation Company (DGIC) has asked the Ashley National Forest to allow them to use helicopters, heavy motorized equipment and tools to repair Fox and Crescent Reservoirs on the upper Uinta River deep within the High Uintas Wilderness!

Both of these reservoirs are over 70 years old. Fox Lake is in particular disrepair (and unable to store water. Under state law, if the reservoirs are to be maintained and repaired they must meet state safety standards which require regular access, repair, observation, and maintenance-- all directly prohibited and counter to the context of wilderness. The motorized access, vehicles, including 22 helicopter flights, a crew camp, and cement mixers will occur over a 45 day period followed by regular observation and maintenance for the life of the rebuilt reservoirs.

Literally, the upper Uinta River within the HUW will change in character, not for a season, but for the life of the reservoirs!

While the Ashley National Forest is only beginning the public input stage, scoping, it is time for your WILD VOICE! Following this scoping process, the forest will prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) followed by a Final EIS and decision. The decision, to be made by the Regional Forester, could be:

  1. authorize the project as proposed,
  2. modify it in some fashion,
  3. require no motorized access for repairs, or
  4. reject the proposal completely requiring the reservoirs to be removed and stabilized.

The issues are complex and tied to a minimum tool analysis, the Wilderness Act, impacts on wildness values, wilderness users, wildlife, construction sites, borrow pits, long term access, reservoir maintenance, water quality, riparian areas, stream conditions and flows, which will continue to be artificial if the reservoirs are allowed to continue, dust/noise control and water rights for the DGIC -- this portion of the HUW will literally be transformed into a major construction site followed by high maintenance reservoirs unlike anything ever intended!

WHAT TO DO:

While the Ashley National Forest has done a good job of identifying the major issues, noted above, it is important the Forest Service hears from you to

  1. validate the issues,
  2. express strong support for wilderness and ecological values,
  3. make sure the Forest Service notes that long term access and maintenance is a serious issue which jeopardizes the HUW, and
  4. plainly urge the Forest Service to "just say no" to any reservoir repair or reconstruction on either lake. The chances of actually stabilizing and removing these reservoirs becomes problematic if they receive major reconstruction.

Dick Carter


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