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Sanpete Project

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Sanpete Project History (48 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Sanpete Project in central Utah includes the Ephraim Division near Ephraim and the Spring City Division in the vicinity of Spring City. Facilities constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation are the Ephraim and Spring City Tunnels. Water made available through these works is conveyed to project lands by privately constructed canals and laterals. The project furnishes a supplemental irrigation water supply to 7,661 acres in the Ephraim Division, and 7,085 acres in the Spring City Division.

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Water is fed into the Ephraim and Spring City Tunnels by feeder canals, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which collect water originating on the eastern slope of the southern range of the Wasatch Mountains. The tunnels convey water to the western slope adjacent to project lands.

Facility Descriptions

The Ephraim and Spring City Tunnels have lengths of 7,113 and 4,907 feet, respectively. Each tunnel is horseshoe in shape and is designed to carry 95 cubic feet per second of water. Unlined sections of the Ephraim Tunnel are 6.5 feet and lined sections are 5.5 feet in diameter.

Operating Agencies

The Ephraim Division is operated and maintained by the Ephraim Irrigation Company. The Spring City Division is operated and maintained by the Horseshoe Irrigation Company.

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The settlement of the county was first attempted when an invitation to settlers was extended by Indian Chief Walker on June 14, 1849. In response to this invitation, 50 families from Salt Lake City were sent to Sanpete County in the fall of 1849. The Indians, however, regretted their solicitations for settlers and tension between the two groups finally resulted in the Blackhawk War, which continued until 1868. Following the war, settlers returned to the Sanpete Valley. After the town of Ephraim was incorporated in February 1868, growth was rapid, aided by the completion of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1890, and the Sanpete Railroad in 1893. Spring City was settled in 1850 by 15 families from Salt Lake City, but they were forced to leave in 1854 because of conflicts with the Indians. A new settlement was started in 1859 but was abandoned in 1866 until peace with the Indians was established. The town was incorporated in 1870.


The available water supply from the San Pitch River and its tributaries was insufficient for a dependable full-season irrigation supply for nearby agricultural lands. The only other source of water was from the eastern slope of the mountains adjacent to the east side of the valley. The investigation of this source of water was begun, and a tunnel through the mountains for the Ephraim Division was started by private interests. However, construction of the tunnel was soon abandoned. The first investigation by the Bureau of Reclamation for development of this potential source of water commenced in 1931. The results of the investigation for tunnel sites and the study of the available water indicated that the project`s water supply could be improved substantially by the diversion of water from the eastern slope of the mountains through tunnels to the western slope.


Construction was approved by the President on November 6, 1935, under the terms of subsection B, section 4, act of December 5, 1924 (43 Stat. 701). The project was initiated under the provisions of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.


Construction of the Ephraim Tunnel began in 1935; the Spring City Tunnel was started in 1937. The feeder canals were constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps forces during 1934-1935. All construction work in connection with the tunnels and feeder canals was completed by September 1939.

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The project has benefited the livestock industry and has considerably stabilized irrigation for 188 farms comprising 14,746 acres. A substantial part of the yield would not have been possible without the supplemental water supply furnished by the project. Principal crops are alfalfa, wheat, barley, oats, and pasture. This transmountain diversion not only alleviated the threat of drought, which periodically hampered livestock and agricultural pursuits, but also increased the production of forage crops.

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Last updated: May 17, 2011