March 28, 2022

Salt Lake Tribune: Would dredging Utah Lake upset a century of peace over water rights?

Water managers are worried that a plan to dredge Utah Lake could compromise Wasatch Front water-users’ access to drinking water.

By Brian Maffly | March 28, 2022, 6:00 a.m.  Updated: 8:30 a.m.

Click here to read this article on the Salt Lake Tribune website.

Saratoga Springs • At the head of the Jordan River, where it receives water from Utah Lake, a mighty pump station has stood for more than a century, once capable of raising water at nearly 1,000 cubic feet per second.

The masonry structure and its ancient pumps remain in place on the lake’s north shore as a reminder of Utahns’ herculean efforts to harness water, while its replacement, built a few feet away in 2012 at a cost of about $7 million, now does the heavy lifting needed to keep the peace in the Wasatch Front’s delicate water-sharing arrangements.

Should Utah Lake get dredged as proposed by a company hoping to build a network of artificial islands, this vital pump station would no longer function, jeopardizing Salt Lake County residents’ access to clean drinking water from Wasatch canyons, according to several water managers.

That’s because municipal water providers, such as Salt Lake City, have exchanged their rights to Utah Lake’s low-quality water for the pure snowmelt flowing from the canyons, although irrigators hold the senior rights to the melt, according to Mike DeVries, general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy.

If these water providers can’t deliver Utah Lake water to irrigators, the municipalities would forfeit their access to water from the Cottonwood, Parleys and City Creek canyons. That’s a scenario water managers fear would unfold if Utah Lake is dredged.

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