Last year’s federal government’s bipartisan infrastructure bill has been the subject of much discussion. There were undoubtedly several moving parts to report on, from the grand ambitions of the earliest iterations to the intense negotiations between a 20-person committee of senators. The impactful release of more than $1 trillion in federal funding will shape the nation’s roads, bridges, and environmental policy in the coming years. Formally titled “The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” the bill will provide funding to ailing facilities and equipment to protect the climate and stimulate local economies.
U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) issued a joint statement alongside numerous Republicans and Democrats acknowledging the far-ranging benefits of the law upon its passage: “We were proud to work together on this historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure to modernize roads and bridges, strengthen rail and transit systems, upgrade ports, expand broadband access, improve water systems, and increase the resiliency of the nation’s energy grid.”
Like most states, Utah is receiving billions in federal investment for infrastructure projects. However, this is not limited to giving the roads and bridges a facelift in the Beehive State. Additional hundreds of millions of dollars are being allocated to reinforcing and upgrading the state’s water infrastructure.
As announced by Secretary Deb Haaland, the U.S. States Department of the Interior is releasing $240 million in funding for water infrastructure systems in the western U.S., with a significant piece going toward four different projects in Utah. The projects, which are mainly repairs to high-usage facilities like the state’s Deer Creek Reservoir, have been described as cost-effective but with a lasting impact.
“As western communities face growing challenges accessing water in the wake of record drought, these investments in our aging water infrastructure will safeguard community water supplies and revitalize water delivery systems,” says Haaland.
The project at Deer Creek Reservoir was awarded the biggest chunk of the funding, with a total of $25 million dedicated to helping lessen any maintenance costs associated with the decades-old system.
Experts put the price of a full suite of repairs somewhere around $100 million. The amount should be more than enough to keep Deer Creek operating without significant issues for the immediate future.
Administrators at the facility see the grant as a crucial boost to the maintenance war chest. “Things just wear out,” said Jeff Budge, an operations and engineering major with the Provo River Water Users Association. “To keep the water going to where it needs to go, to all of the people we’re proactively doing a maintenance project is really what this is.”
Another $31 million is going to Weber Basin, divided between a pair of projects involving pipelines managed by the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. Most of the grant money will go to build a new water pipeline, as officials say the current one has seismic concerns. The second project will use $8 million to replace a siphon at the A.V. Watkins Dam and further prevent the likelihood of a catastrophic break.
The last of the major projects is a series of improvements to a canal system in Utah’s northeast region. The system, which delivers irrigation water to 15,000 acres of farmland in the Ashley Valley, is expected to cost $14 million. Unitah Wate Conservancy District general manager William Merkley cited improvements to water efficiency, public safety, and drought resiliency as the primary reasons for the upgrades.