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Central Utah Project - Jensen Unit
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Jensen Unit Project History (PDF - 92 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Jensen Unit, in Uintah County in northeastern Utah, serves Ashley Valley and the area extending east of the valley to the Green River. This multipurpose project developed about 22,600 acre-feet of water annually: 18,000 acre-feet for M&I (municipal and industrial) uses and 4,600 acre-feet for irrigation. Some 440 irrigable acres receive a full service water supply and 3,640 acres receive a supplemental water supply. Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir provides water primarily for irrigation. Tyzack Aqueduct Reach 1 meets the demands for M&I water by transporting water from Red Fleet Reservoir when the quality of the water supply from Ashley Springs is not potable. As demands for M&I water increase, the reservoir water is made available to meet the demand. Tyzack Aqueduct Reach 2 distributes water treated at the Ashley Valley Water Treatment Plant to the Vernal City and Jensen Water Districts. The unit also benefits fish and wildlife, recreation, and flood control.

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Major features of the unit are Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir; Tyzack Pumping Plant; Tyzack Aqueduct Reaches 1 and 2. Red Fleet Dam, the main feature, was completed in 1980. Water is pumped from Red Fleet Reservoir by Tyzack Pumping Plant and then conveyed by Tyzack Aqueduct Reach 1 past Steinaker Reservoir to the Ashley Valley Water Treatment Plant, which was built by the Central Utah Water Conservancy District. Starting from the treatment plant and running southeasterly, Tyzack Aqueduct Reach 2 distributes the water to the Vernal City and Jensen Water Districts.

Facility Descriptions

Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir

Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir are constructed on Big Brush Creek about 3.5 miles downstream from the crossing of State Highway 44 and about 10 miles northeast of Vernal, Utah. The dam is zoned earthfill with a structural height of 144 feet above the bed of Big Brush Creek. The crest length is 1,670 feet long and 30 feet wide. Red Fleet Reservoir has a total capacity of 26,000 acre-feet, of which 24,000 acre-feet is active storage. The reservoir has a surface area of 521 acres at the normal water surface elevation of 5,608.2 feet.

Tyzack Pumping Plant and Aqueduct

Tyzack Pumping Plant, located near the downstream end of the outlet works of Red Fleet Dam, delivers water from Tyzack Reservoir through the discharge line to Ashley Valley Treatment Plant. The plant has a rated capacity of 48.3 cfs, and provides a design capacity of 45 cfs at 514 feet of rated head. It consists of three 1,250 horsepower and two 600 horsepower electric driven pumps designed for outdoor operation. The average annual amount of water to be pumped is 18,000 acre-feet. Power requirements of the plant are an average of about 11,650,000 kilowatt-hours annually, and the peak power demand from year to year is from 2,470 to 2,890 kilowatts. The aqueduct is a pressurized pipe extending 11.7 miles from the pumping plant to Ashley Creek. Conditions along the aqueduct alignment were favorable for construction. In order that power is supplied to the Tyzack Pumping Plant from the Colorado River Storage Project system, taps were made on the Vernal-Flaming Gorge 138 kilovolt line No. 1 and on the Vernal-Hayden line. Transmission lines of 138 kilovolt capacity were built from the point of connection to the Tyzack switchyard. The capacity of the Tyzack Switchyard is 5,000 kilovoltamperes. The transmission line to the Tyzack Pumping Plant is 2.3 miles long.


Drainage facilities were constructed for about 700 acres of project land. The construction consists of 6.17 miles of drains including 1.4 miles of open outlet drains and 4.7 miles of closed lateral drains. All drains have a design depth of about 10 feet. The land requiring drains was identified as either drainage deficient at the time of investigation or likely to develop deficiencies with project development.

Operating Agencies

Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir were turned over to the Uintah Water Conservancy District (UWCD) for operation and maintenance on May 1, 1985. The operation and maintenance responsibilities for the Tyzack Pumping Plant and Aqueduct were transferred to the UWCD on October 1, 1988.

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A Spanish expedition headed by Father Escalante, crossed the Green River 4 miles above the present town of Jensen on September 17, 1776. Its purpose was to find a direct route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Monterey, California. This is the first recorded incident of white men being in the area. The expedition reported the area as, `a land dry and arid with a vegetation of cactus and desert plants.`

In 1825, General William H. Ashley, along with Jim Bridger and Andrew Henry, made a fur trapping expedition into the area; hence the names Ashley Valley and Ashley Creek.

The Vernal area of Ashley Valley was settled in 1873. Several Mormon pioneers settled the Jensen area in the fall of 1877 and the spring of 1878. They diverted water from Brush Creek for irrigation. At first, small ditches were built to serve the most readily accessible agricultural lands adjacent to the stream.

The town of Jensen was named after Lars Jensen who settled in the area in 1879 and who, from 1881 to 1909, operated a ferry boat across the Green River.

Three of the four canals--Burton, Murray, and Burns Bench--as well as several small individual ditches, have been diverting water from Brush Creek since 1878. The Sunshine Canal was constructed later. As more and more land was developed and brought under cultivation, late season water shortages developed. These shortages resulted in litigation and, in 1896, the natural flows of Brush Creek were adjudicated by court decree.

Due to the isolation of the area, the first settlers were compelled to make their community selfsupporting. The area, though still lacking rail transportation to outlying markets, now enjoys fast efficient motor freight transportation.

Livestock and livestock feeds are the only agricultural products produced. This type of agricultural economy has been dominant since the area was settled and was not expected to change with project construction. Types of livestock raised include beef cattle and sheep. The kinds of crops grown supplement the livestock industries. Lack of irrigation water, particularly in the late summer and fall, greatly handicaps farmers of this area.


The Central Utah Project plan has evolved from investigations of various independent projects. Continuous investigations have been conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation since 1945 from a plan which started in 1902 with the Strawberry Valley Project. It was recognized early in the investigations that the project was of such magnitude and complexity that it should be divided into separate units to facilitate planning and construction. A feasibility report was published in February 1951.


Initial Phase of the Central Utah Project, including Jensen Unit, authorized as a participating project of the Colorado River Storage Project by act of April 11, 1956 (70 Stat. 105).


Construction of the Jensen Unit began in May of 1977 with the construction of Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir. The principal components associated with the construction of Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir included construction of a dam embankment, outlet works, a spillway, a pipeline that crossed the reservoir and would be part of the Aqueduct Distribution System, access roads to the dam and recreation facilities. Red Fleet Dam, Reservoir, and the work associated with with this project were completed in April of 1980. Construction of Tyzack Pumping Plant and Aqueduct Reaches 1 and 2 began in 1980 and was completed in 1983.

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Principal crops grown on the project lands are alfalfa, barley, corn silage, and irrigated pasture. The total estimated project cost is $33,263,000. Of this amount, $4,933,000 was allotted to irrigation, $25,668,000 was allotted to municipal and industrial water, and $2,662,000 was allotted to non- reimbursable fish and wildlife and other costs.

Municipal and Industrial

The Jensen Unit supplies 18,000 acre-feet of water for municipal and industrial purposes. This municipal and industrial water is lifted from the Red Fleet Reservoir by the Tyzack Pumping Plant to the Tyzack Aqueduct Reach 1 and conveyed to the Ashley Creek Water Treatment Plant, then to the Vernal City and Jensen Water Districts by Tyzack Aqueduct Reach 2.


Recreation facilities at Red Fleet Reservoir are administered by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. Recreation facilities consist of boating, fishing, camping, hunting, and water sports. There were 52,227 recreation use visits spent in the reservoir area during 1996.

Hydroelectric Power

There is no hydroelectric power that is produced by the Central Utah Project-Jensen Unit.

Flood Control

Red Fleet Dam and Reservoir has a dedicated flood control space as per Corps of Engineers. The minimum flood control reservation for Red Fleet Reservoir is 17,500 acre-feet. The total capacity of Red Fleet Reservoir is 26,000 acre-feet. Therefore, Red Fleet has 8,500 acre-feet that has been reserved for flood control.

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Last updated: Apr 18, 2011