MORE ON WILDERNESS RESERVOIR STABILIZATION
Once in a while a truly meaningful opportunity presents itself. The Draft Environmental Assessment, Section 203(a) Uinta Basin Replacement Project, proposed by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District CUWCD), is that opportunity (see HUPC Action Alert 2/2001, Stabilizing The High Uintas Wilderness Reservoirs Is Within Reach. ) This EA, and the two alternatives, Proposed Action Lake Fork and the Twin Potts, offer a remarkable solution to long standing issues-- stabilizing the high mountain reservoirs/lakes within the High Uintas Wilderness while also meeting contractual water needs downstream without having to rely on constructing a new reservoir on the Yellowstone River.
Since the first High Uintas Wilderness proposal and hearings back in 1966, the question of stabilizing the high mountain lakes on Lake Fork and Yellowstone River has been of deep concern. While many discussions have ensued, some contrary to the context of the High Uintas Wilderness, the issue has become more polarized. Finally, this option is exposed and we are on the way to resolving two crucially important issues, mutually inclusive!
However, additional changes are needed in this plan. While CUWCD's proposed Lake Fork Alternative is meaningful, it only takes us one step, removing and stabilizing the four reservoirs on the Lake Fork drainage, toward what is an exceedingly obvious solution. By not seeking the next step, the Twin Potts Alternative, of resolving the nine small reservoired lakes on the Yellowstone and Swift Creek drainages, we set in motion the very conflict that we would all like to avoid. Thus it is imperative that the CUCWD not stop at the Lake Fork Proposed Action alternative.
To accomplish this and still provide the contractual water for local farmers and municipal/industrial water users, and with the support of those groups, the extant off-stream Big Sand Wash Reservoir would be enlarged and three small pipelines would be enlarged or constructed, all of this occurring off-forest, to move water from the Lake Fork to the Yellowstone River and to and from the Big Sand Wash Reservoir and into Roosevelt.
The actual analysis of how the reservoirs will be removed and lakes stabilized will come through a Forest Service analysis to determine the minimum tool necessary to accomplish the reservoir removal (motorized equipment versus non-motorized equipment and how each dam/reservoir/outlet will be removed, etc.) Getting to that point through this proposal is the first and crucial step. Without it, the dams remain, the potential for motorized access to maintain the reservoirs exists, and the ecological integrity of the Uintas stays out of reach.
At issue are Kidney, Brown Duck, Clement and Island Lakes on Lake Fork and Superior, Five Point, Drift, Bluebell, Farmers, E. Timothy, White Miller, Deer, and Water Lily on the Yellowstone River/ Swift Creek. All of these reservoirs were built by hand at the turn of the century for irrigation purposes.
The EA notes, with few exceptions, that the most environmentally sound alternative is Twin Potts, particularly with an alteration of assuring an instream flow similar in the Lake Fork, something easily done given the water budget once these reservoirs are stabilized.
It is also notable and commendable that the Moon Lake Water Users Association, the permittees who use the water from these 13 small dams, supports the stabilization of all 13 reservoirs. Again, the opportunity to resolve a broad array of issues with the support of widely diverse groups is something not to ignore!
It is clear the final EA should select the alternative that stabilizes all 13 wilderness reservoired lakes. Stabilization of the wilderness reservoirs has only positive impacts.