By Amy Joi O’Donoghue
One of the state’s potentially biggest reservoirs proposed in more than a decade has passed an early analysis and moves onto the design and environmental review stage.
The Garley Dam and Reservoir 3 miles northwest of Price would tap 5,000 acre-feet of the city’s unused portion of the Price River to help western Carbon County combat drought and unpredictable water supplies, as well as counter water loss due to storage and infrastructure problems.
Garley Canyon emerged from a pack of 10 potential sites after geotechnical surveys revealed it is suitable to host a reservoir. Additional engineering and design work is ongoing, with an environmental assessment planned for 2017. The project could be finished and operational by 2021.
“We’ve been studying the feasibility of this project for about a year now,” said Miles Nelson, Price’s public works director. “There is definitely a need for the project, and so far our work is showing that the conditions and the Garley Canyon site make it feasible.”
The project is being spearheaded by the Price River Watershed Council, which includes multiple entities, including Price, the Price River Water Users Association, Carbon County and the Price River Water Improvement District, as well as local residents.
Nelson said the lack of storage options for local water supplies has dogged the county for years, but the drought has underscored the need to press forward with the project.
“It has driven it to among our top priorities,” he said.
The project would allow the area to capture water in the White River drainage that is not stored at the upstream Scofield Reservoir. An 8-mile pipeline would deliver the water to the Garley Canyon Reservoir, which is estimated to cost between $50 million and $80 million.
“We have to look at what is reasonable, what is our need and can we meet most of our need at a reasonable scale of cost,” Nelson said.
The current system of irrigation canals is inefficient, he said, with water loss that comes from seepage and evaporation. The Garley project envisions piping many of those canals over time for more efficient delivery of water.
The proposed dam and reservoir is not far away from the golf course off U.S. 6, so city officials and others have been working with neighborhood residents who’ve voiced concerns or questions given its proximity, Nelson said.
“We welcome having the discussion and having the concerns raised now so we can address them if possible,” he said.
Local entities kicked in some money for the early phase of the feasibility study and the Utah Legislature contributed $800,000 over two fiscal years for the early analysis.
At its maximum size, the dam would be 200 feet high and 1,200 feet across. At its largest, the reservoir would hold 10,000 acre-feet of water.
The last reservoir to be constructed in the state was the M&S Reservoir in Uintah County in 2014, but it only holds 3,000 acre-feet of water. The Jackson Flat Reservoir in Kane County was finished in 2012 and holds 6,000 acre-feet of water.
The Washington County Water Conservancy District completed construction on the Sand Hollow Reservoir in 2002. It cost a little over $37 million and holds just slightly more than 51,000 acre-feet of water.
By comparison, nearby Scofield Reservoir holds 73,600 acre-feet of water.