Serve Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By John Men­den­hall

On May 21, an open house was held by sev­eral ir­ri­ga­tion com­pa­nies and con­trac­tors to in­tro­duce wa­ters users, public of­fi­cials and cit­i­zens to a new di­ver­sion struc­ture that has been com­pleted to re­place the old City Dam on the Span­ish Fork River.

The new City Dam Di­ver­sion Struc­ture is lo­cated near the Canyon View Park along the River Trail at the mouth of Span­ish Fork Canyon. The City Dam di­verts wa­ter into the Mill Race Canal, which de­liv­ers ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter to Southeast Field Ir­ri­ga­tion Com­pany and West Field Ir­ri­ga­tion Com­pany and by­passes wa­ter to Lake Shore Ir­ri­ga­tion Com­pany. In the past, Span­ish Fork City re­ceived wa­ter from the Mill Race Canal and con­tin­ues to re­ceive wa­ter credit at the City Dam site, but the city has moved its point of di­ver­sion to other lo­ca­tions. The City Dam is the point at which all wa­ter in the Span­ish Fork River Drainage is mea­sured at and ac­counted for to al­low proper di­vi­sion of de­creed wa­ter rights to all ap­pro­pri­a­tors.

The new di­ver­sion struc­ture re­places the old City Dam, which was con­structed ap­prox­i­mately 1927. The old dam had de­te­ri­o­rated to the point that it was very near fail­ing, was no longer a re­li­able mea­sur­ing de­vice, and had to be re­placed. The floods of 1983 nearly washed the old struc­ture out be­cause it couldn’t by­pass enough wa­ter to avoid flood­ing the sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Men and dy­na­mite were on the scene to blow up the old City Dam, but Lynn Men­den­hall, the Span­ish Fork wa­ter com­mis­sioner at the time, knew that if the dam was de­stroyed, the farm­ers of the river bot­toms and Palmyra would not be able to get ir­ri­ga­tion to their crops that sum­mer. The farm­ers’ liveli­hoods would be in jeop­ardy, and Men­den­hall con­vinced the oth­ers to breach the south abut­ment of the dam and leave the dam in­tact to al­low for sum­mer ir­ri­ga­tion. The farms were saved, but the Canyon View Park and Golf Course were se­verely dam­aged.

Years later, John Men­den­hall be­came the wa­ter com­mis­sioner and rec­og­nized the fail­ing dam as real prob­lem that couldn’t be ig­nored much longer. Wa­ter needed to be reg­u­lated and mea­sured ac­cu­rately and safely. Fu­ture floods needed to be passed by the struc­ture with­out dam­age to sur­round­ing land. The City Dam was fall­ing apart. Peo­ple from the var­i­ous ir­ri­ga­tion com­pa­nies and Span­ish Fork City be­gan look­ing at op­tions and talk­ing to John Men­den­hall about what type of struc­ture would be needed and how a new dam could be con­structed and funded.

Af­ter the high river flows of 2001, the need for a new di­ver­sion struc­ture arose anew. The wa­ter com­mis­sioner, ir­ri­ga­tion com­pa­nies and Span­ish Fork City be­gan ex­plor­ing op­tions for a new dam. Af­ter much dis­cus­sion and de­bate, a call for pro­pos­als was sent out to have en­gi­neer­ing firms give some ideas for the de­sign and cost of a new di­ver­sion struc­ture. It was learned that a new dam would be a large project and ex­pen­sive. More dis­cus­sion and de­bate fol­lowed.

Fi­nally, in the sum­mer of 2013, en­gi­neer Bruce Hall was se­lected and his de­sign was ac­cepted. It uti­lized con­trol gates that were rel­a­tively new in de­sign, Obermyer Con­trol Gates, that can be used for con­trol and mea­sure­ment of the wa­ter. The gates are op­er­ated by fill­ing and de­flat­ing air blad­ders. Fund­ing was sought for and se­cured from the State of Utah’s Di­vi­sion of Wa­ter Re­sources, which has a pro­gram to pro­vide fund­ing for wa­ter projects in Utah. The plan­ning and per­mit­ting process be­gan in the win­ter and spring of 2013–2014. De­mo­li­tion and con­struc­tion be­gan in Septem­ber of 2014 with com­ple­tion of the new City Di­ver­sion Struc­ture in April of 2015. Ray Mecham and Lynn Boots Crisler acted as canal com­pany liaisons.

The open house fea­tured a wel­come by West Field Ir­ri­ga­tion Com­pany Pres­i­dent Gerald Hill. Bruce Hall En­gi­neer­ing was thanked as well as other con­trac­tors who worked on the project: FX Ex­ca­va­tion and Con­crete, Obermyer Hy­dro Inc., Allen’s Weld­ing, James Simons Elec­tri­cal, Straw­berry Wa­ter Users Con­struc­tion Crew and oth­ers. Thanks was also given to the Utah State Di­vi­sion of Wa­ter Re­sources for the fund­ing of the struc­ture. John Men­den­hall, Span­ish Fork Wa­ter Com­mis­sion, gave a his­tory of the dam. Brent Money of­fered a prayer. A lun­cheon was pro­vided and a tour of the fa­cil­ity was con­ducted.

State-of-the-art de­sign and con­struc­tion and con­trols have come to­gether in the new struc­ture. It should pro­vide se­cu­rity of di­ver­sion and mea­sure­ment of wa­ter as well as bet­ter flood con­trol well into the fu­ture. The new City Dam Di­ver­sion Struc­ture can be viewed from the Span­ish Fork River Trail just west of the Canyon View Park.

Photo by Serve Daily

The Span­ish Fork City Dam Di­ver­sion Struc­ture is shown as viewed from just off the Span­ish Fork River Trail west of Canyon View Park.

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