SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Utah and Idaho have jointly filed to claim water rights at Bear Lake. The move is supposed to make conservation and water access easier, but skeptics worry it will fast-track a 2.5 billion dollar water project they believe isn’t necessary.
The Bear River Development Project has been in the works for more than 20 years. It aims to meet the needs of a growing population by diverting water from the Bear River into city water supplies. Taxpayers would fund the project through their water bills.
Zach Frankel is the Executive Director of the Utah Rivers Council, he said, “This idea that Northern Utah is running out of water is farse, and study after study has demonstrated that there is no need for the Bear River Development in at least the next sixty years.” Frankel says the project would lower the water level of the Great Salt Lake and shrink wildlife habitats as well as negatively impact our air quality.
Frankel and his team have come up with various alternatives including re-structuring water pricing to incentivize people to conserve and redirect the water used for agriculture as rural lands are paved over.
But, the Division of Water Resources doesn’t think these alternatives go far enough. Division Director Eric Millis said, “Even with those two efforts, we believe that there are water projects that need to be built and the Bear River Development Project is part of that.”