Public lands discuss fire and land use bill
Chairman Edward Geary opened the meeting with comments about the drought, fires and the flooding in and around burned over areas in Emery County.
Geary quoted the council mission statement as follows: "Our business is to represent the public lands interest of Emery County and its citizens and perform an advocacy role for local users and stake holders. To work in partnership with the Federal and State agencies in fashioning management decisions and policies affecting lands, participating in the development, coordination and implementation of the planning objective to ensure harmony between the objectives of these various entities in the Emery County Master Plan. It is the intent and purpose of the Emery County Public Lands Council to aggressively preserve the community heritage of Emery County."
Commissioner Horrocks reported on the Land Use Bill, that Ray Petersen and staff are working to get the plan ready to submit to the State Legislature to meet the requirements of House Bill 176. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance wants to again participate. Commissioner Horrocks has asked for a written statement of what SUWA considers in their interest. "We have reached out to everyone and would like to have the support of all interested parties," said Commissioner Horrocks.
Petersen made a Land Use Bill presentation at the Utah State Capitol, to the Carbon County Commissioners, the Uintah County Commissioners and the Sevier County Commission about the Emery County Land Use Bill. "We plan to move forward with this bill even if we do not get the support of the State. The council views this bill as a Federal Lands issue," said Petersen.
One of the issues the other counties are concerned about is as follows. They do not want Wilderness Study Areas being put in their county. Randy Johnson said, changing a designation from Wilderness Study Area to Wilderness will not change what occurs on the land in terms of land use or air quality.
Petersen said Brian Hawthorne of the Blue Ribbon Coalition has advised the making of some minor changes in the language that clarifies the Land Use Bill.
Bureau of Land Management Division of Water representative mentioned the Light House Fire at Range Creek that consumed 755 acres, 562 was BLM, and 193 was State. "This is highly sensitive land with the existing cultural resources. We plan to partner with DWR to do some rehabilitation of that area. Some of the burn occurred where a prescribed burn was planned. There was only minor damage to the artifacts in Range Creek. We are working on a management plan to control and manage fire for the future. This was a good test of what we need to do. Much of that area has burned over in the past," he said.
Marc Stilson reported the Division of Water Rights expects the Nuclear Power Plant Application to be involved in a Water Rights Court Case possibly in October. This will be a preliminary hearing.
A question was asked about emergency removing of log jams in the river channel. Stilson replied there are two permitting agencies the State and the Corps of Engineers. As far as the State is concerned, whatever needs to be done for emergency fixes or repairs, there are no restrictions. The Corps of Engineers may have a similar policy.
John Baza of the Division of Oil Gas and Mining came with Dana Dean Associate Director of Mining and will be holding a meeting about a host of issues related to oil gas and mining later this day. In the future we will be holding a quarterly meeting as it relates to mining. Hydraulic fracturing is on everyone's mind these days nationwide. "We have a presentation we can show you at another time," Baza said.
The water discharge from the Crandall Canyon Mine is still being processed by the company to lower the iron content to acceptable levels. The pretreatment process of the iron discharge hasn't changed for sometime. They are holding steady. The company will continue to be responsible to treat that water.
"Our Abandoned Mine Reclamation Project in the San Rafael Swell is part of a cooperative effort with the BLM. This is part of a rural history project that uses the consulting services of Brigham Young University to interview some local people. It has since developed into a video production of about 17 minutes long. It is called, 'Mining In The Swell.' We will show this video to you at a future date," said Baza.
The Division of Wildlife Resources reported on the Mule Deer Protection Act. The Legislature has approved funding for coyote removal. The bounty on coyotes has been increased to $50. The DWR is cooperating with the counties that administer that program. Senator David Hinkins was one of those that helped pass this legislation. About $600,000 is available to the public for predator control and to help the recovery of the mule deer population. From Dec. 1 to the end of April 2013 when fawns are being born is the time the public would be encouraged to harvest coyotes in areas where deer raise their young. Coyote bounty will be paid on any coyote taken within the state. Coyote hunters will be required to go on line to register because taxes are involved.
Coyote check in will begin after Sept. 1. There will be three locations in the region. One location will be at the Fairgrounds in Price, another at the DOT shed in Green River and one at the DOT shed in Monticello. These stations will be open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4- 8 p.m. This will let the DWR check in coyotes when people are off work.
The Seeley Fire had major impacts on wildlife both good and bad. For big game it is fantastic. "We are already seeing green in some areas. The aspens are surviving after the beetle kill trees were burned. We expect a lot of aspen regeneration. For hunting this year the fire will cause some areas to be restricted. The flash flooding in Huntington Canyon will be a public safety issue," said the DWR.
"The aquatic resources have received a major impact. The flooding in Huntington Canyon has basically wiped out all the fish down to the Green River. We have seen fish kill in the town of Green River too. We lost all the fish in the Price River. The ash in the streams are what killed the fish." the DWR concluded.
School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration reported that all pending sales of SITLA land have been finalized. The Lighthouse fire near Range Creek was on BLM and SITLA property. SITLA has property scattered throughout the state intermingled with BLM and Forest and have fires throughout the state. They anticipate the need for seed this year will be very high. They are partnering with the DNR, the DWR and the BLM to purchase a large bulk of seed. This seed will be put in storage and used to reseed burned areas. Some natural reseeding will take place. The concern is that noxious weeds may take over in some of the areas.
The preliminary seismic fault study for the Blue Castle Energy plant has been completed in the San Rafael/ Manti-LaSal National Forest Ranger Darren Olsen displayed maps and photos of the Seeley Fire. The fire was first reported on June 26 in the left hand fork of Huntington Canyon. That was a red flag day with ideal conditions from a burning stand point, which made it very difficult to suppress the fire. The fire continued to grow. Part of the problem was the wind that caused pieces of burning tree branches to fly as far as a half a mile and set more fires in front of the fire (called spotting). The fire continued to grow throughout a lot of that country. About 48,000 acres burned within the fire area. The fire burned Forest Service, BLM, State and some private land. The majority of the fire was on Forest Service lands. The fire went as far North as Clear Creek. The fire continued to grow to the North and East. There are still some green spots along the slopes in the burned area. The livestock and wild life mostly hung out away from the fire edges and in the green spots. As far as they know most of the animals survived. The fire was finally contained about July 14.
With the rain events they are getting flooding outside the natural streams. The dark black dirty water is what killed the fish in Huntington Creek and throughout the drainage area from the fire.
On Aug. 1 there was a rainstorm that dropped about an inch and a quarter of rain throughout the fire area. This caused rocks and debris to wash out of the canyons and close State Highway 31. Many of the recent rain events have caused debris flows out of the canyons. This flooding has caused an increased work load for the Utah Department of Transportation and Emery County in clearing roads of rocks and debris.
The increased flow of water down Huntington Creek after the rainstorm caused severe under cutting of SR-31 and delayed the opening of this road for travel. Other negative effects of the fire were livestock grazing which affected, two cow allotments and four sheep allotments hurting their grazing season.
In the burned areas they will let the land rest and recover from the fire for a time. There will be some benefits from the fire. They are starting to see new growth in some areas but it will take a few years to get through the flooding. They expect to see flooding for the next couple of years until they get vegetation established in those burned over areas. Their plan is to reseed and build debris basins in the canyons to slow the flooding. Some of the South facing slopes are already starting to show the regrowth of vegetation. In the areas not affected by the fire, the recent rain events have caused the vegetation to grow there too.
The Seeley fire burned 48,000 acres and has cost more than $9 million so far.
Utah State Parks and Recreation representative Dan Richards reported because of the fires Huntington State Park had increased usage. Last year all state parks had increased revenue. Last year the Green River State Park, Golf Course and camp ground were up 5 percent in revenue, 10 percent for Goblin Valley, 10 percent at Millsite and up 18 percent for Huntington. These can be attributed to the improvements they have made in the campgrounds. "In Green River half of the camp sites have electricity. In the next two months we expect Rocky Mountain Power to upgrade to an 800 amp transformer at Millsite. This will allow us next year to add electricity to 10 camp sites and we will improve the campground more when funds become available," said Richards.
"At Green River due to water conditions the annual Friendship Cruise was canceled. The Green River Triathlon was a success with more than 200 participants. The Triathlon at Huntington was a very successful event with more than 200 triathletes. We are already planning and working on next year's event," said Richards.
Another 10,000 wiper fish have been stocked at Huntington State Park. This is the first year they are seeing some production from stocking wipers the last couple of years. They are seeing 10-11 inch fish. They hope to have some harvestable fish next year.
The Millsite Poker Ride is scheduled for Sept. 15. This is a fundraiser for Millsite.