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4 Utah water projects awarded $70M to fix aging system issues

A photo of Deer Creek Reservoir.
Murray Foubister
Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Utah's Deer Creek Reservoir is on the Provo River outside of Heber City.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week that an additional $240 million in funding will go to aging water infrastructure in the West, including four projects in Utah.

“As western communities face growing challenges accessing water in the wake of record drought, these investments in our aging water infrastructure will safeguard community water supplies and revitalize water delivery systems,” said Interior Sec. Deb Haaland in a release.

This money comes from the bipartisan infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed last November. The Bureau of Reclamation approved 46 projects across 11 states, and now applicants can decide if they want to accept the funding or not. The four Utah projects were awarded around $70 million.

One is at Deer Creek Reservoir, which is part of the Provo River system. It could cost as much as $100 million to replace 80-year-old parts on the dam, while keeping the water flowing. Jeff Budge, the operations and engineering manager with the Provo River Water Users Association, said they may utilize the $25 million in federal funding for the project. Though, they’re considering various sources to see what best fits their needs.

The guard gates at Deer Creek aren’t expected to “catastrophically” fail, he said but they are having maintenance issues, which could impact a million and a half water users in Utah and Salt Lake counties.

“Things just wear out,” Budge said. “To keep the water going to where it needs to go, to all of the people we're proactively doing a maintenance project is really what this is.”

Two projects in the Weber Basin were awarded over $31 million. Jon Parry, an assistant general manager at the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said the money will largely go toward adding a water pipeline since the old one has seismic concerns. Just over $8 million is also for replacing a siphon at the A.V. Watkins Dam, which is on the shore of the Great Salt Lake.

Having a resilient pipeline will help the district “sleep more comfortably at night,” Parry said. The Davis Aqueduct helps deliver water to the Wasatch Front.

“As we experience continued growth and climate variability, the efficient utilization of our limited water resources is going to be critical,” he said. “So that upkeep and the minimization of water loss and things like that is going to be, you know, increasingly important.”

The Uintah Water Conservancy District is another aging infrastructure project sponsor. They’re working on enhancing and enclosing a canal system in northeastern Utah, which delivers irrigation water to nearly 15,000 acres in the Ashley Valley.

William Merkley, the general manager of the district, said in an email this project has been in the works for a few years and the additional $14 million could help with the next steps. In the long run, he said the project will help with water savings, public safety, operational efficiencies and drought resiliency.

Another round of funding from the Bureau of Reclamation is set to open in October.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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