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South County cities pursue converting use of Strawberry Reservoir

By Sarah Hunt - | Mar 23, 2023

Don Allphin, Special to the Daily Herald

This undated photo shows the space between the shoreline and the ice cap at Strawberry Reservoir as the spring ice-off begins for Utah bodies of water.

As it stands, the Strawberry Valley Project makes up approximately 45,000 acres located to the east of Spanish Fork, on the other side of the Wasatch Mountains. For over 100 years, the project has been a priority of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the federal government. 

On Tuesday, the Spanish Fork city council unanimously approved sending a letter drafted by the mayors of Payson, Spanish Fork and Salem — requesting assistance from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in converting the Strawberry Reservoir from farm to city use. A majority of water from the Strawberry Valley Project is delivered to Bonneville Basin, the Central Utah Project’s biggest supply of water.

“Project features include Strawberry Dam and Reservoir, Indian Creek Dike, Strawberry Tunnel, two diversion dams, three powerplants, a main canal system, and a portion of the lateral system,” reads the Bureau of Reclamation’s website

In the letter, officials state their belief that, under the 1920 Miscellaneous Purposes Act, the water use can be converted to industrial and municipal purposes by the bureau. It argues that Water Dedication Agreements currently being used take too much time to make and put into effect, causing needless expense to the city as well as shareholder frustration and confusion.

Seth Perrins, Spanish Fork’s city manager, explained the purpose of the letter to members of the city council.

Connor Richards, Daily Herald file photo

Lynn Swenson, president of the Strawberry Water Users Association, cuts a ribbon celebrating a new diversion dam in Payson Canyon on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

“This doesn’t take away water from the agricultural uses, but it does allow for easier conversion for those that want to convert it. And there are times and reasons where conversion should and maybe even must happen. And it is very, very difficult. So working together with the Strawberry Water Users Association, we have identified a good path forward, and now would ask for your support as the mayor signs this letter,” Perrins said. 

Mayor Mike Mendenhall, son and grandson of two Spanish Fork River water commissioners, praised members of the Strawberry Water Users Association while advocating for the change.

“I think the feelings between cities and the Strawberry Water Users Association is as good as they’ve ever been right now. … These are good people, good board members of an organization that loves what they do. Some of them farm and have a big history in this valley,” Mendenhall said. “We appreciate them being at the same table and all of us together solving water issues. It’s not a year that we should have water issues, but we live in a desert, and this is a big deal.”

Dave Tuckett, Payson city manager, called the Strawberry Valley Project a “great asset” to Payson and the region as a whole. 


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