Wasatch Environmental Update; Bear River Water and Rocky Mountain Power

Wasatch Environmental Update for May 28, 2017

By John Worlock, Member of the Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons

“Bear River Water and Rocky Mountain Power”

Just at the moment that the State Division of Water Resources has finally concluded that we won’t be needing water from the Bear River on our Wasatch

Front lawns, Rocky Mountain Power has come up with a plan.  They would like to divert annually a quarter of a million acre-feet of Bear River water to solve that nonexistent problem.  This diversion would, not coincidentally, solve some of their power generating problems.

One immediate consequence of this scheme, and any scheme to divert the Bear River, would be disastrous for the Great Salt Lake and its environment.  The Bear River is by far the largest contributor to the Great Salt Lake, and the diversion would drain many of the special wildlife reserves that surround the lake, while exposing many square miles of dry, dusty lake bed.  The dusty lake bed would become a deadly source for windblown dust downwind from the lake.  These consequences helped to persuade the state water authorities recently that they had better look for efficient uses of water along with conservation and re-use.  They have concluded that the Wasatch Front is in no imminent need of Bear River water.

Nevertheless, here is Rocky Mountain Power, or RMP, offering to use their network of dams and reservoirs on the Bear River to shift some significant water away from the Great Salt Lake and to the Wasatch Front.  We follow our friends at the Utah Rivers Council in suspecting that RMP has an ulterior motive.  They will need their Cutler Dam to be reapproved for licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2024, and they are looking for strong friends and enhanced uses of the dam. Perhaps they are not offering to deliver this water for free, but expect a sizable subsidy for their scheme.

We can only hope that the Division of Water Resources sticks to its conclusion that the Bear River should contribute its bounty to the Great Salt Lake and not be diverted unnecessarily.

This has been……then………OOps!  I forgot to say that RMP’s proposal would raise the height of the Cutler Reservoir by three feet, making the production of electricity more attractive, but inundating untold thousands of acres of wetlands, farms and ranches in the Bear River Valley.

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