Trump Administration Transfers Federal Water Projects in Utah to Local Water Users

Last edited 09/18/2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt was joined by Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, U.S. Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, U.S. Congressmen Rob Bishop and John Curtis and other officials as he transferred the ownership of the first two federal water facilities to local ownership under a law signed by President Trump last year. The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act expedites the title transfer process for eligible federal projects, such as dams, canals, laterals and other water-related facilities. 

The actions today convey title and full ownership of the Emery County Project in east-central Utah to the Emery County Water Conservancy District and the Uintah Basin Replacement Project in northeastern Utah to the Moon Lake Water Users Association.  

“These title transfers fulfill the Trump Administration's goals to streamline bureaucratic processes, empower local ownership and facilitate infrastructure investment from non-federal sources,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Transferring these facilities into local ownership also saves American taxpayer dollars due to decreased federal operating costs and reduced liability.” 

“I appreciate Secretary Bernhardt's continued deference to state and local leadership and expertise, and these title transfers are just the latest case in point,” said Governor Herbert. “We know the good people of Emery and Duchesne Counties, and the respective water users associations, will continue making prudent decisions for these projects, as they have for many decades.” 

“It’s not every day that the federal government gives land back to local governments, but here we are celebrating such a minor miracle today with the transfer of these water projects,” said Senator Lee (UT). “For far too long local communities have been deprived the right to own, control, and manage projects that are essential to the life of the community. I want to thank Secretary Bernhardt for his outstanding leadership in making this day a reality. I hope these are just the first of many transfers to come.”  

“With the historic transfer of these land titles, the Emery Water Conservancy District and the Moon Lake Water Users Association will be able to better manage their water in order to meet the needs of their communities,” said Senator Romney (UT). “These transfers set a model for the nation, and I hope to see more projects transferred from the federal estate into local control. I appreciate that President Trump has made this a priority in his administration, and I was proud to help lead and vote in favor of the public lands package that included these transfers. I thank Secretary Bernhardt for being in Utah to mark the successful completion of this effort.” 

“It is nice to have a Department of the Interior that realizes the goal of public lands and resources should be to help people, not just to accumulate and acquire,” said Congressman Bishop (UT-01). “This event is the conclusion of two title transfers, but just the beginning of our effort, made possible by the lands package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, of moving decision-making power back to the local level.” 

“This title transfer in Emery County ensures that Utahns will continue to have access to important recreational opportunities in the region, while also allowing important infrastructure improvements to guarantee future water access to Emery County residents,” said Congressman John Curtis (UT-03). “I appreciate the hard work of the Emery Water Conservancy District, Department of the Interior, and U.S. Department of Agriculture to get this important water project transferred to local hands.” 

Uintah Basin Replacement Project  

The Uintah Basin Replacement Project title transfer conveys ownership to project facilities and lands necessary for project operation, maintenance and replacement—including the Big Sand Wash Feeder Diversion and Pipeline, Big Sand Wash Reservoir enlargement and Big Sand Wash Roosevelt Pipeline. The transfer includes 14.7 acres of fee title lands and 980.4 acres of easements. The Uintah Basin Replacement Project provides water for agricultural irrigation and Roosevelt City.  

“On behalf of all our water users, I want to thank our great Congressional Delegation for working with the Secretary of the Interior and other senior Department and local officials to provide the leadership and hard work get us to this point,” said General Manager of Moon Lake Water Users Association Dex Winterton. “This administrative title transfer process, through preparation, communication, and agreement has provided for a win-win. It demonstrates the best of government management by allowing the local entities, who know the area and truly have its best interests in mind, who have fully paid back the US Government for the project construction costs to efficiently and effectively maximize the project benefits.” 

Emery County Project 

The Emery County Project title transfer conveys ownership to all project facilities and federal lands necessary for project operation, maintenance and replacement, including the Joes Valley and Huntington North dams and reservoirs, Swasey Diversion Dam, Cottonwood Creek-Huntington Canal, Huntington North Service and feeder canals and evacuation pipeline and Upper Lakes Reservoir. The transfer includes 1,104 acres of federal lands adjacent to and necessary for operation and maintenance of those facilities. The Emery County Water Conservancy District will continue to work closely with the U.S. Forest Service to ensure access to recreational facilities around the reservoir. The Project serves irrigation, recreation, fish and wildlife, and municipal and industrial needs in Emery County. 

“Transfer of title to the Emery County Project from the United States to the Emery Water Conservancy District is a real benefit to the entire Emery County area as it will foster better opportunities for efficient and cost-effective operation, management, and care of the project at the local level and guarantee continued project benefits to all stakeholders in the short and long term,” said General Manager Emery County Water Conservancy District Jay Humphrey. “This is the realization of great foresight of our Congressional Delegation, Secretary Bernhardt, his staff and the local Bureau of Reclamation staff coming together to find a process that works extremely well.”   


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