Driest water year in recent memory
In the April public lands council meeting, Sherrel Ward reported the snow totals are as bad as he's ever seen. Things haven't been this dry since the drought of 1977. The San Rafael is 38 percent of normal and Seely Creek is 40 percent of normal. The only thing that will save the county this irrigation season will be the carry over in the reservoirs from last year. Electric Lake is at 77 percent; Millsite-78 percent; Huntington Reservoir-69 percent; Huntington North-94 percent; Joe's Valley-83 percent; Miller's Flat-86 percent; Cleveland Reservoir-84 percent. It is predicted that Joe's Valley reservoir will spill. The Emery Water Conservancy district's allocations will be at 100 percent.
The lands council discussed the Emery County Public Land Use bill and where it is. With the passing of HB 176, the county will need to obtain the state's approval before the bill can move forward. The county is to prepare a report concerning the land use bill to be presented to the state public land policy office.
Commissioner James Nelson wants everyone to know the public land use bill is a result of the work of the public lands council. Rep. Noel is the sponsor in the house of HB 176 and Sen. Hinkins is the senate sponsor. Randy Johnson, public lands council consultant for the county reminded everyone that in order to have the state's approval the county must follow the guidelines in the HB 176. But, it's not illegal for the county to do a public lands bill. Johnson said there's not a lot going on in Washington and it's a good year for Emery County to be the pilot for the land use bill. "We will continue to meet with the Washington delegation and make every effort to report to the state legislature and make that work, we are not going to go away, there's been too much time and work put into the bill and that's the message we are giving to our delegation. Most of what we hope to do in Washington DC stems back to the timing of our bill and how long it takes." (for state approval).
The Bureau of Land Management is continuing forward with the closure of abandoned mines in the county. The BLM is currently completing the oral history of the mines. They will share this history with the county when it is complete. There is some concern with the White Knolls Bat syndrome. The BLM will wear protective equipment when they do their work so they won't spread any disease to the bats. NIOSH wanted to do a quick radiation study in the San Rafael Swell and their report will be coming out in May. It will include safety in dealing with radiation.
Commissioner Nelson complimented the BLM on their work on the trails and the work at the Swinging Bridge campsite which will accommodate horse camping.
Ward asked the BLM how the work with the Buckhorn wells stock watering was coming along. Val Payne reported they were starting to run lines to the troughs. The forest service is going to do the work. It was reported the road was washed out in Fuller's Bottom and people were climbing out on the banks. The BLM wasn't sure when they would be able to get that road fixed. The county is currently trying to obtain the right-of-way on that road so they will be able to keep it properly maintained.
Darren Olsen gave the US Forest Service report. He said some burning may take place with the Swasey project, but if it's too dry they may not be able to burn. Plans are still underway to burn the Groeben, Potters' Pond towards Reeder. This will burn spruce and conifer. They hope to move forward with that project it may be in late May. They are still planning to burn 700-1,000 acres.
Olsen said they are concerned about a recent law suit that challenges the categorical exclusions which the forest service has been using to get smaller projects completed including some timber projects and projects they consider to be routine. Now these projects must be let out for a 30 day comment period and these projects are subject to appeal. People who provide comments to these projects can appeal. Olsen believes many projects on the forest will be pushed back because of this law suit. He said the Sequoia Forest Keepers are the ones that filed the lawsuit. The same group also filed the same lawsuit in 2005 and they have refiled it again. It puts all decisions on categorical exclusions up for scoping and appeal.
Chuck Semborski, lands council member said Energy West had a coal exploration project that was days away from starting and now it is held up. Olsen said unless the decision was made prior to March 14, then all projects will go back out to scoping.
Ward asked if this could affect putting in a water trough and Olsen said yes it could it would be subject to a 30 day comment period. Gates on the forest should open on April 15 depending on the weather.
The sage grouse numbers are similar to what they have had in the past. There has been a small increase in the numbers at Wildcat which is in Sevier County. Rod Player said the sage grouse on Horn Mountain are more prone to moving their leks around.
Dan Richards reported from the Utah State Parks. He said Green River golf course has had two very successful tournaments and Ray's Tavern was one of the sponsors. They are encouraging the local businesses to get involved in supporting the golf course. At Goblin Valley they will redo the pavilion and develop a trail off the pavilion directly into the Goblins.
Richards discussed the boat cleaning at the state parks, he said they now have the money to do the boat cleaning and they will utilize current staff for the boat cleaning. Richards said both Millsite and Huntington Lake state parks are open and have good fishing right now. The parks are also working on developing a trail that will connect North and South Skyline and you would be able to ride from Scofield State Park all the way to Millsite State Park. Richards said their officers will be out on busy weekends and help give out maps and information to visitors to our area.
The DWR will still do the boat cleaning at Electric Lake. The National Guard will gather in June at Millsite State Park for training.
"We are looking forward to their visit," said Richards.
Ward asked how the problem with the quaaga mussels is looking. Richards said it is looking good they don't seem to be spreading and Electric Lake may be downlisted. They did find an adult mussel at Sand Hollow. Someone mentioned there are boats sold from Lake Mead that are passing through that are contaminated with mussels.
Richards said plans are being made for a fundraising bass tournament to be held in June at Huntington North.