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Health, Science & Environment

Water Project Brings Colorado River Water to Wasatch Front

Judy Fahys/KUER
The outflow behind Gene Shawcroft joins the Colorado River Basin with the Great Basin and brings water to Utah and Salt Lake Counties. Utah's water development community has been working to complete this connection for more than 50 years.

Utah’s water development community celebrated a milestone Wednesday that was half a century in the making with the latest addition to the Central Utah Project.

The drizzle didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of dozens of people gathered outside the river-flow control building here at the mouth of Provo Canyon.

“What’s happening today is we’re celebrating for the first time the delivery of Colorado River water to the Great Basin,” said Gene Shawcroft, general manager for the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.

The water shooting from a tunnel behind him was captured 80 miles away in the Uinta Mountains. It was headed for the Colorado River, but it’s here now because of $3.5 billion dollars from the federal government and Utah taxpayers. Shawcroft says the newly completed tunnel represents 50 years of planning and engineering and building and politicking from Utah to Washington, D.C.

“The Central Utah Project,” he says, “is really a hallmark of the faith and ingenuity of Utahns in general.”

This water buffers the Salt Lake and Utah valleys against water shortages. And it allows the Wasatch Front to grow. The water district wants federal funding to help with some finishing touches.

“Certainly, we don’t have the funding we’ve had in the past,” says Reed Murray, who oversees the CUP for the U.S. Department of Interior. “And I see in the future our participation funding will be smaller.”

The CUP was supposed to be done next year under legislation Congress passed two decades ago. But the deadline’s fuzzier now, because finishing the project will require another half billion dollars or so. But Murray remains hopeful.

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