ST. GEORGE — Local, state and federal water managers, along with civic officials and others from across the county met in the middle of brush-covered field Tuesday morning near Toquerville to mark the groundbreaking on the long-planned Toquer Reservoir.
On a hillside overlooking the site of the future dam for the incoming Toquer Reservoir where a groundbreaking for the project was held, Toquerville, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
A part of the overall Ash Creek Project, plans for the Toquer Reservoir have been in the works for 20 years and didn’t start to see significant headway until 2019. The path for the new reservoir was cleared after some federal-level hurdles and multiple environmental studies related to the project ran their course.
“We’re really excited for the collaboration on this project,” Zach Renstrom, the water district’s general manager, said at the groundbreaking event. “We’ve had multiple entities help contribute funds to this project moving forward.”
A combined $15 million was granted for the Toquer Reservoir project from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Small Storage Program, the Utah Division of Water Quality’s Southern Utah Reuse Program and Washington County.
“We’re grateful to provide a little bit of the funding,” Rick Baxter, area manager of the Bureau of Reclamation in Provo, told St. George News.
Reclamation gave the water district $4.7 million earlier this year. That money came from 2022’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Better known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, it gives the bureau $8.3 billion to put toward water projects over the next five years.
“What they’re (the water district) doing and what we’re doing is the same mission – to develop and protect water resources,” Baxter said.
Both Renstrom and Baxter shared comments prior to the ceremonial shoveling of the dirt for the groundbreaking. Victor Iverson of the Washington County Commission and Spencer Jones of the Utah Board of Water Resources made brief statements during the event.
The Toquer Reservoir is projected to have a capacity of 3,725 acre feet of water and cover 115 acres near Interstate 15 and state Route 17 (the road to leading to Toquerville from the highway). The reservoir’s dam will be 125 feet tall and 1,270 feet wide.
The overall Ash Creek Project encompasses the construction of an 18.8-mile pipeline from the Ash Creek Reservoir to the future site of the Toquer Reservoir. Originally estimated to be a $34 million project, the cost jumped to $94 million due to inflation.
The purpose of the project is to capture and secure water from the Ash Creek Reservoir near New Harmony that is otherwise reportedly being lost to seepage. That reservoir was built in the 1960s alongside I-15 and hasn’t worked as well as intended, Renstrom previously told St. George News.
Zach Renstrom, manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, points out scars on the hillside that mark the anticipated water line of the incoming Toquer Reservoir, Toquerville, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
While the nearly 19-mile Ash Creek Pipeline is designed to capture part of the surface run-off water that would otherwise be lost in the Ash Creek Reservoir, Renstrom said the reservoir will receive water from the Ash Creek water treatment plant that is currently being constructed.
The treatment plant will send treated sewer water to the reservoir where it will provide an alternate water source for the Toquerville Secondary Water System and preserve the high-quality water from the Toquerville Springs for potable uses.
“The water in this reservoir will be provided to farmers that are currently using a very high-quality water that we’d prefer to drink,” Renstrom said. “So we’re doing a swap with the farmers.”
Though it is being built in the Toquerville area, Renstrom added the reservoir will provide water directly to LaVerkin, Hurricane and Virgin. It will also free up system capacity so more water can be supplied to Washington City, St. George, Santa Clara and Ivins, he said.
The reservoir will take approximately two years to construct. Once complete, the water district anticipates a partnership with the Utah Division of State Parks to manage recreational opportunities, including non-motorized boating and camping.
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