In April 2017, Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) issued a press release announcing their intention to divert large quantities of the Bear River upstream of the Great Salt Lake for municipal use. The press release noted:
By changing how the utility operates Bear Lake at its five Bear River hydroelectric projects, combined with conservation efforts, Rocky Mountain Power could supply the planned annual water demand anticipated by Utah and Idaho for new municipal use.
See full press release here.
The amount of municipal water to be diverted from Bear River Water Development is 220,000 acre-feet of water for Utah alone. This is the same amount of water that an average American city of 2 million people use in an entire year.
If RMP is successful in diverting the Bear River, the diversion would lower the Great Salt Lake several feet, drying up tens of thousands of acres of wetlands around the lake. An abundance of research demonstrates that inexpensive alternatives exist to provide municipal water for the Wasatch Front’s future population growth. In other words, Bear River Development is never needed.
Why Is RMP So Adamant About This Proposal?
Above: Farmers and ranchers from all over Bear River Valley came to a meeting in Logan and voiced their concerns about the proposal.
RMP wants to divert the Bear River because they are trying to relicense one of their hydropower facilities, Cutler Dam, which must be approved for continued operation by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In 2024, RMP’s license to operate Cutler Dam expires and they are proposing to divert enormous quantities of the Bear River to recruit institutional partners to help get approval from FERC.
Cutler Reservoir is laden with lots of soupy brown sediment, as shown in the photo above. The 114 foot high Cutler Dam is shown below.
RMP’s proposal is to raise the reservoir’s height by 3 feet, which would inundate thousands of acres of wetlands, farms and ranches in the Bear River Valley. Cutler Reservoir is loaded with large amounts of silt, which is reducing the amount of power being generated from the facility. Initial observations indicate the facility is only generating roughly 30% plant capacity, meaning its hydropower generation is very inefficient.
The Utah Rivers Council has led the fight against this diversion for over 20 years and successfully defeated it from being advanced by passing legislation at the Utah Legislature in 2002. This new development is unsettling, but we will be victorious if we band together to stop the disastrous Bear River Water Grab. We will keep you informed about any developments with this new proposal from RMP so please stay tuned.