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Emery County Project
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Emery County Project History (58 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Emery County Project is in east-central Utah near the towns of Huntington, Castle Dale, and Orangeville. The project, which includes an irrigable area of almost 19,000 acres, is in the Green River Basin. Principal construction features of the project are Joes Valley Dam and Reservoir on Seely Creek; Swasey Diversion Dam 10 miles downstream from Joes Valley Dam; Cottonwood Creek-Huntington Canal; Huntington North Service Canal; and Huntington North Dam and East and West Dikes, which form Huntington North Reservoir.

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The project provides an estimated average of 28,100 acre-feet of water annually for irrigation of 18,755 acres, of which 771 acres is land previously unirrigated. In the mid-1970`s, the irrigable acreage was reduced to 14,171 with 4,604 acres designated `not for service`. In 1981, the irrigable area was increased to 16,170 acres with 2,605 acres in the `not for service` category. The project supplies 6,000 acre-feet of water for industrial and municipal purposes. Recreation facilities have been constructed at both Joes Valley and Huntington North Reservoirs.

Facility Descriptions

Joes Valley Dam and Reservoir

Joes Valley Dam is an earthfill dam 1,290,000 cubic yards in volume, 187 feet above streambed, and 750 feet long at the crest. The project provides for regulation of Seely Creek, a major tributary of Cottonwood Creek. The reservoir has a total capacity of 62,460 acre-feet and a surface area of 1,170 acres.

Water is released from storage flows on Seely Creek to Cottonwood Creek and the Cottonwood Creek-Huntington Canal, which heads at Swasey Diversion Dam.

Swasey Diversion Dam

Swasey Diversion Dam, a concrete ogee weir type, is located 10 miles downstream from Joes Valley Dam on Cottonwood Creek. It has a diversion capacity of 165 cubic feet per second, a height of 11 feet, a crest length of 75 feet, and a volume of 9,000 cubic yards.

Cottonwood Creek-Huntington Canal extends 16.7 miles from Swasey Diversion Dam northward to the vicinity of Huntington where it terminates at North Ditch, which diverts from Huntington Creek. A short distance below this juncture, water is released from North Ditch into the Huntington North Reservoir.

Huntington North Dam

Huntington North Reservoir, created by Huntington North Dam and by the East and West Dikes, has a total capacity of 5,420 acre-feet and a surface area of 242 acres. Storage water from this reservoir is released into the Huntington North Service Canal and carried to numerous canals and ditches to be distributed for irrigation. Sections of existing canals and ditches have been lined and rehabilitated. Land drainage also is included in the project plan.

Operating Agencies

Project irrigation facilities were turned over to Emery Water Conservancy District for operation and maintenance on January 1, 1970.

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From its original settlement in 1875 until about 1920, the population of Emery County grew slowly. Then the population gradually decreased, largely as a result of the absence of major industries to supplement the agricultural economy, the decreasing need for farm labor as a result of mechanization, and the retirement of land from cultivation because of restricted drainage and excessive salinity. Livestock raising is the principal industry, with the cultivated lands providing the base for operations.

Natural flows from Huntington Creek were first apportioned in 1876 when small ditches were dug to divert water onto about 320 acres of land. In 1878, canals were constructed to divert irrigation water from Cottonwood and Huntington Creeks. By about 1900, all dependable natural flows of the two creeks had been appropriated. Originally, the water users under each canal, organized independent canal companies. During the 1930s, these individual companies joined to form the Huntington Cleveland Irrigation Company and the Cottonwood Creek Consolidated Irrigation Company. These two companies then serviced the irrigated lands. Over the years, several small industries centered around agricultural production have developed. Coal mining is a leading industry, and uranium ore mining and processing are other important activities. Substantial supplies of natural gas also have been discovered and are being developed on the Wasatch Plateau in the Huntington and Cottonwood drainage areas.


Irrigation development of Emery County Project lands had been considered by local groups and Government agencies at various times since the turn of the century. The Bureau of Reclamation`s first basin-type report of March 1946 served as a supplement to the December 1950 report on the Colorado River Storage Project and participating projects. The 1950 report was amended in 1953, and the final report in 1961 provided updated material leading to authorization of the project.


The Emery County Project was authorized as one of the initial participating projects of the Colorado River Storage Project by the act of April 11, 1956 (70 Stat. 105).


Construction of the Emery County project commenced on June 20, 1963, and was substantially completed in 1966. The first irrigation water was delivered that year. Water for municipal and industrial purposes was first made available in 1973.

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Through an improved irrigation water supply, the agricultural production of project lands was improved. Agriculture continues to center around the livestock industry, with more than 90 percent of the irrigated area producing hay and grain. The increased production in livestock feed permits increased production of beef, sheep, and dairy products.

Recreation, Fish & Wildlife

Recreation facilities at Joes Valley Reservoir are operated by, or under the direction of, the Forest Service. Those at Huntington North Reservoir are operated by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. The Forest Service also administers nine small reservoirs upstream of Joes Valley Reservoir, which were acquired as part of the project. During 1981, 12 hour visitor days to the area totaled 41,437.

Industrial Uses

The project supplies 6,000 acre-feet of water for coal fired electric power generation. This industry has bolstered the economy of Emery County.

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Last updated: Apr 21, 2011