Quitchupah Creek Road Discussed in Meeting
The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 8 at 10 a.m. The first item on the agenda was the approval of the previous month's minutes.
Dennis Worwood chairman for the council called on subcommittee chairmen for their reports: Craig Johansen chairman of water mentioned the two legislative bills which will come before the state legislature in the upcoming session concerning water. One bill states if you do not use all of your shares you could forfeit a portion of your shares. In other words someone could buy them out from under you without your consent.
Johansen is working with State Senator Blackham to make an amendment to the bill which states the water could not be sold to a company outside the state of Utah. This amendment will help protect the needs of water users. Johansen and Commissioner Ira Hatch are scheduled to meet with the legislative committee to discuss the amendment.
The coal bed methane subcommittee report was next with Bevan Wilson saying they are still working on the main line in Orangeville through the swamp. Plans are to drill 150 wells in Emery and Carbon counties this year. Commissioner Hatch also commented that he had attended a meeting with Phillips where they presented an overview of operations and their proposed plan for the year and they will be moving steadily southward.
Wes Curtis, chairman of the heritage subcommittee said the Emery County Community Foundation has agreed to work with the council in creating a memorandum of understanding. Washington has the language on the heritage bill and it is being worked by Congressman Cannon's staff and legislative council. Congress is not in session until the end of the month. Val Payne pointed out that they are putting it in the form it needs to be in to begin its way through Congress.
The council will begin working on the memorandum of understanding with the foundation in the near future. Dickson Huntington that there is a conference in St. George on Jan. 21-22 sponsored by the Farm Bureau concerning grazing which will feature the new director of the Bureau of Land Management, Kathleen Clarke, that he will attend.
The BLM scoping meetings for the area management plan will be on Jan. 30 at the Museum of the San Rafael from 7-9 p.m. It was mentioned that SUWA and the western watersheds project have filed suits agaist the BLM in various counties and are working to end all grazing on public lands by lawsuit.
Floyd Johnson was on hand to give the BLM update. He mentioned the six public scoping meetings which are beginning. Press releases have been sent to newspapers and letters have been sent to all interested parties. The scoping meeting in Green River will be held on the 29th and the one on the 31st will be in Price at the Holiday Inn. All scoping meetings will be from 7-9 p.m. Johnson said, "These meetings are to help us understand people's needs. Written comments will also be accepted. The comment period is open until Feb. 15 after which time the comments will be consolidated and gleaned for major issues. The second planning bulletin will be a summary of the public scoping.
"A draft environmental impact statement will be ready probably in December 2002 or January 2003. The format at the scoping meetings will include breaking into three or four interest based groups, those with like interests such as grazing or energy and other issues because these issues cross boundaries. We want to allow everyone to comment," said Johnson.
Curtis wondered about the BLM travel plan and Johnson said the state office is working on it and it will be complete as soon as possible. He mentioned that Kathleen Clarke was sworn in on Jan. 2.
Recreation chairman, Commissioner Randy Johnson said they are having a plaque made for the dinosaur quarry to commemorate Public Lands Day 2001.
The discussion of the Quitchupah Creek Road was next on the agenda. Linda Jackson, the public affairs officer of the Fishlake National Forest is the project manager and was in attendance with a presentation and to answer questions. She mentioned the project has been in the works for about three years, the draft is out and they are requesting comments. She introduced Kay Erickson of the BLM Richfield office and Lori Armstrong who was representing the field manager of the Richfield office. Jackson said, "Jerry Meredith and Mary Erickson will make the final decision on this road from an agency standpoint.
"One proposed action is the upgrade of 9.2 miles of existing road along Quitchupah Creek It would connect with Highway 10 three miles south of Emery and be a shorter route for trucks from Sufco mine. It would reduce time and fuel costs. One alternative route would include a route through Old Woman Plateau (Water Hollow) which Jackson pointed out would include a lot of earth moving and disturbance to put a road through.
"One other alternative meets Highway 10 at another point. The 9.2 mile upgrade along the dirt road would effect power, telephone and irrigation. This route traverses forest, BLM and private ground. This route is a 74 mile round trip haul distance from the mine to the power plant. This plan saves 50 miles off the no action plan. This road has a gradual steepness, a .6 percent grade. Grazing is permitted in this area and will continue to be permitted. Livestock operators would need to truck livestock to the Fish Lake area. This route also includes seven significant archeological sites.
"The no action plan would leave things as they are with the coal being hauled from Sufco to the Hunter Plant at a distance of 124 miles round trip. They estimate they will haul 2.8 millions tons of coal this year to the power plant and estimates of 4.5 million tons by 2004.
"The alternate Quitchupah design follows all but the last two miles of the proposed design with the alternate bringing the road to meet Highway 10 past the hill which wouldn't decrease speed on the highway. This plan saves 53 miles. This route includes fencing along the road with five underpasses for cattle and game. Estimated cost of the road is 5.9 million. This route has 29 archeological sites with 11 that will be impacted and six of these are considered significant.
"The Water Hollow route is all in Sevier County and includes 82 miles round trip, which saves 42 miles of hauling. This route includes 19 archeological sites all of which can be avoided. No existing road exists along this route and includes more earth moving for an estimated cost of $13.5 million.
"The notice of the draft went out on the federal register on Dec. 14. The comment period is 45 days and will remain open until Feb. 15. The agency has no preferred alternative with this project. Usually the forest service initiates the project but this project came to us. We want to know what the public has to say. We will receive comments until Feb. 15, these comments will be incorporated into the final draft in some form. After the final plan comes out there is a 45 day appeal period. In order to participate in this appeal process you must have standing, which means you must have commented in the planning process or you can't appeal.
"If the regional forester and the state BLM director agree with the appeal then we will rework the plan. If they don't agree with the appeal then the project will go forth. There are five weeks left in the comment period. You can also phone in comments to me at 896-9233 or Kay Erickson at 435-896-1500.
"The mine is paying for the road as a toll road. Sevier County will pay for the road initially and then the mining company will pay a toll on the road until it is paid off," said Jackson.
It was pointed out that Sufco is currently employing 23-25 employees from Emery County. Currently the coal is trucked into Hunter Plant from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. and not on the weekends. Someone mentioned the possiblity of trailing the cattle up to permit areas on weekends and at times when the trucks were not running. Jackson pointed out the mine has expressed desire to work with the cattlemen for solutions in any problems this road might cause.
One citizen wondered if the road could be adjusted to go around any archeological sites. One comment included one citizen concerned about the archeological sites in the area to the extent that he recommended the no action plan. Which would preserve all sites. He said there is a major rock art site which is between 4-6,000 years old and could be an economic benefit to the county, by developing a string of sites in the area similar to the Hovenweep sites. He suggested camping and hiking as added draws to the area and developing tourism and using the heritage resources available on the site instead of destroying them for a coal haul road.
Jackson invited the citizen to make his comments known through the public comment process. Worwood pointed out the need for this point of view to be included.
Worwood said they have been receiving applications for vacancies on the board and encouraged interested parties to apply. Worwood said they sent letters to parties involved or effected by the possible elk hunting ranchand potential land exchange between BLM and SITLA being proposed by Castle Valley Ranch.
The council had signed a letter with the commissioners and the Emery County Economic Development stating their support of the proposal on Sept. 27, 2000. The council is taking no action at this time to change that. The members of the council will review the letters and make a decision at that time to reaffirm their support or opposition to the proposal. This is the first time written statements have been made and concerns expressed.
Johansen expressed his view that the land council's involvement is premature as the BLM who is the major player in this has a public process which will be adhered to before any decisions could be made. Worwood stated that SITLA was interested in the county's position. He also pointed out that the BLM will be reexaming their parcel exchanges with their new management plan.
Commissioner Hatch mentioned a public meeting for input on the reservoir management plan for Huntington North Reservoir on Jan. 23 from 5-7 p.m. at the Huntington town hall.
The meeting adjourned into executive session.