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Park City

Round Valley Reservoir? It’s one option for when Park City needs more water

Round Valley Cheryl Fox.jpg
Courtesy of Cheryl Fox
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Bill Cunningham, a former Summit Land Conservancy board member, is pictured on a monitoring visit to Round Valley. The proposal to use Round Valley as a reservoir has been discussed for years, but officials suggest it is unlikely to occur.

Could Round Valley turn into a reservoir? It’s one of three options for a water importation project to be built when the Park City area runs out of water.

There has been a decade-long détente in the Snyderville Basin’s water wars. The major water providers agreed in 2013 to share water among themselves, and only when there wasn’t enough to go around would they pursue a project to bring more water into the Basin. That project could cost $100 million or more.

At a gathering of the major water providers Monday night, Darren Hess, an assistant general manager of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, said the period immediately before that 2013 agreement was more contentious.

“Just in 2010, there were more than 20 lawsuits that folks were involved in up in this area, and many of which stem from where to bring the next water supply into the valley,” Hess said. “And then in terms of, you know, different turf areas — who was going to pick up certain demand centers.”

Hess said officials at the time, including the governor and the state’s federal delegation, stepped in and asked Weber Basin to be part of a solution. Now, the three water systems — Park City Municipal, Summit Water Distribution Company and Mountain Regional Water District — are linked together.

They must submit an annual report saying how much water they have and how much they’ll need for the next decade. When one provider declares there won’t be enough to serve the demand, it will trigger a large-scale project to import more water into the Snyderville Basin.

Hess highlighted three options for that importation project: a pipeline from East Canyon Reservoir, a pipeline from Rockport Reservoir and a new reservoir that would be built in Round Valley. Hess said Weber Basin will decide which project will happen.

Clint McAffee, Park City’s public works director, said the city doesn’t have a firm position on which option it prefers. But he said there’s a provision in the 2013 agreement that would allow Park City to essentially veto the Round Valley option if it wants to.

“They’re not just going to come in and steamroll us,” McAffee said.

Documents from 2012, when this issue came before the Park City Council, show the Round Valley option would be the least expensive, and McAffee said it would come with much lower operations and maintenance costs.

Hess said there were other advantages as well.

“It is very nicely suited for a small dam in that narrow neck there, and would be very well suited for a reservoir, as the engineers have looked at that,” Hess said. “It would be nice to have storage up in the valley. As an engineer, I always feel better about having water close to where it's being delivered.”

Hess acknowledged, however, there would be pushback from Park City locals about flooding a favored trail network. Cheryl Fox, the executive director of the Summit Land Conservancy, which holds a conservation easement on some Round Valley land, agreed.

“Round Valley has become everybody's collective backyard, our Central Park, if you will. And that includes all of the areas that would be also inundated if Round Valley became a reservoir,” Fox said. “So it will be a difficult discussion, I think, and an interesting discussion.”

Lora Smith, the executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, which manages trails in Round Valley, said displacing thousands of year-round trail users with a reservoir rises to the top of her list of concerns.

McAffee said the Round Valley Reservoir idea is “very conceptual” and that any importation project is years away. Hess said it would take 7-8 years to build the project, and it has not yet been triggered.

McAffee said it’s important to know the Snyderville Basin could run out of water and hoped that knowledge would spur increasing conservation efforts. He said an importation project could theoretically be delayed indefinitely with a reduction in local water usage, especially if there are additional cuts to outdoor irrigation.