Over 100 Years Since Beginning of Utah's Strawberry Valley Project
2005 marked the centennial for the congressional authorization of the Strawberry Valley Project, which comprises about 45,000 acres of irrigated land around Spanish Fork in north-central Utah. To commemorate this milestone, the Strawberry Water User Association and Reclamation hosted a ceremony on June 24, in Wasatch County, Utah. More than 100 people attended the event, including Reclamation Commissioner, John Keys, Utah Lieutenant Governor Gary Herbert and Joe Hunter, Chief of Staff for Congressman Chris Cannon. Mayors from communities throughout Utah County as well as representatives from a number of water entities were also present.
The Strawberry Valley Project was important to the development of Utah Valley because it provided vital irrigation water via a system of project features including Strawberry Dam and Reservoir, the Strawberry Tunnel (a trans-mountain conveyance tunnel), Indian Creek Dike and feeder canal, Springville-Mapleton lateral, Highline Canal, Power Canal and the Upper and Lower Spanish Fork Power Plants.
Early settlers in the lower Utah Valley were limited in their ability to develop irrigable lands due to the low summer flows in the Spanish Fork River, and needed supplemental water storage. Not long after the 1902 Reclamation Act was passed, preliminary surveys and investigations by the U.S. Reclamation Service (known today as the Bureau of Reclamation) for the Strawberry Valley Project began in 1903, making it one of the earliest projects evaluated under the Reclamation Act. Upon completion of the investigations, the project was authorized on December 15, 1905, and construction on the Strawberry Tunnel component of the project began in 1906.
The Strawberry Valley Project represents the first large-scale trans-mountain diversion from the Colorado River Basin to the Bonneville Basin. The tunnel was built to transport water from the outlet of the Strawberry Reservoir through the Wasatch Divide for discharge into Diamond Fork (a tributary of the Spanish Fork River) and diversion to the Strawberry Power Canal to supply the Springville-Mapleton Lateral, the High Line Canal system, and the Upper and Lower Spanish Fork Powerplants.
Construction of Strawberry Dam began in 1908 and was completed in 1913. Once completed, Strawberry Dam was the largest structure of its kind in Utah, standing 72 feet high. The entire Strawberry Valley Project was completed by June 30, 1922. In the mid-1920's, the Strawberry Water Users Association (SWUA) was formed and contracted with Reclamation to operate the project which obligated the SWUA to repay a portion of the project's construction costs over a 50-year period. The final re-payment of these costs was paid by the SWUA in 1974.
Today, parts of the Strawberry Valley Project have been integrated into the Bonneville Unit of the Central Utah Project. In 1974, Strawberry Reservoir was enlarged by the construction of Soldier Creek Dam, located seven miles downstream from the old Strawberry Dam, to provide increased storage capacity. Water deliveries are now made through the Sixth Water Aqueduct and Syar Tunnel which has replaced the Old Strawberry Tunnel. But it is the construction of the Strawberry Valley Project a century ago, which made the advances of today possible.