– USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Utah, in conjunction with the Green River Conservation District and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), will open the Green River Dam rehabilitation project to interested members of the public and media on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 in Emery County. The event will take place at the project site via Hastings Road at 11:00 am.
Directions to site here: https://goo.gl/maps/wTzkff7n9J62.
Aerial footage is available for downloaded here: http://bit.ly/1WhxXcW
“This dam will provide a secure supply of irrigation water for the many farmers, ranchers and secondary water users in this area well into the future,” said Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food, LuAnn Adams. ”Water in the West can make or break a community, and this dam literally keeps the green in Green River, Utah.”
The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) project to restore the Green River Diversion stemmed from the 2010-2011 flood events which caused chipping of concrete, undercutting of the foundation, and cracks associated with structural failure. In the event of diversion failure, water service would cease to three irrigation canals, a historic irrigation water delivery system, and a hydropower plant.
The EWP program established by Congress responds to emergencies created by natural disasters, such as floods and fires, and protects life and property from any future event of a similar magnitude. Projects are administered by the NRCS, in partnership with local sponsors, usually State or Local governments.
“The success of this project is due to the great partnership of local landowners, state and federal agencies, and local community leadership to implement a project that will provide benefits for years to come. NRCS has a long history of Helping People Help the Land, and this project was no exception.” Bronson Smart, NRCS State Conservation Engineer.
Agriculture generates $20 million to the economies of Emery and Grand Counties, with a large portion of that revenue tied to water from the Green River. Green River melons sell in several Western states, and are well known to consumers at grocery stores and farmers markets. Aside from melons, alfalfa, corn and livestock also thrive on Green River water. More than 5,300 acres of farmland are irrigated with water made available by the diversion dam.
The Tusher diversion has played an important role in the development of the Green River community but especially with agricultural development. Since the 1913 completion date for the historical structure, it has been a critical element in diverting or conveying water into three historical canals and one power plant. The site of the Tusher diversion was chosen early on, and pioneers from the community used temporary diversions of rock, brush, logs, etc. for a number of years to convey water into a ditch on the west side of the river. The cooperative work effort involved the entire community and was celebrated with an annual work effort and community picnic. The first permanent dam washed away during spring flooding immediately following its completion.
The need for a permanent structure led Mr. George Thurman to design the historical Tusher Diversion, which has served the community since 1913. It is unique among diversion dams in the west. The Tusher Diversion has been determined eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places due to its important contribution to the establishment of Green River, and due to its unique design. The historical backstory is a testament to the cooperative effort of community pioneers and to the ingenuity of individuals to overcome natural obstacles with unique designs.
Wildlife and Habitat Importance
The diversion-structure restoration design considers five federally listed threatened and endangered fish species. Currently, the Green River harbors the most robust population and two known, active spawning locations of the Colorado pike minnow; two known population centers of the humpback chub; two known, active spawning locations of the razerback sucker and populations of stocked individuals of razorback sucker and bonytail. Restoration of the diversion structure includes carefully designed fish passage and electronic monitoring components that will provide long-term observation and tracking for these important species.
Navigating the Green River, from Flaming Gorge to the Colorado River, is popular for boaters and anglers. Every year thousands navigate the river for its scenery and ideal fishing conditions. According to Nathan Fey, stewardship director with American Whitewater, the Green River Dam was the last impediment to the boating community as they made their way toward Utah’s Canyonlands. In the past, boaters would simply avoid the diversion because of the unsafe hydraulic conditions the obstacle produced.
“Installing the boat chute makes navigating the Green River safer,” Fey said. “It should enhance the boating experience for clients of commercial outfitters and the general public, especially during low flows.”