Public hearing on construction of debris basin
The Emery County Commissioners held a public hearing to receive public comments regarding the construction of the Huntington Creek Debris Basins. The project consists of constructing a debris basin berm, overflow structure and trash rack in Huntington Canyon on Bureau of Land Management land. The project is along SR-31 across from the road that goes to Rhino Mine. The funding for this project will come from the NRCS, DWR, Emery County and other private stakeholders.
Commissioner Jeff Horrocks welcomed everyone to the meeting. The public meeting is part of the NEPA process the project is going through and currently the project is in the environmental analysis phase. A comment period will be open until July 23.
The NRCS representatives explained the project is being done in accordance with the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. This program was set up by Congress to respond to emergencies caused by flooding and fires and other natural disasters. The NRCS will cover 75 percent of the cost and 25 percent will be obtained by the local sponsor the Emery County Commission. The local source can be in-kind or monetary.
There have been several meetings and tours of the area where the debris basin will be constructed.
The goal of the project is to keep large woody debris and sediment out of the river in the area above the Huntington power plant.
Trish Clabaugh, the BLM field manager from the Price office said they are required to do NEPA because the project is ground disturbing. They are required to do an archaeological study and have an archaeologist onsite during the construction.
After all requirements are met the BLM will issue a right-of-way to Emery County. It is expected the right-of-way will be good for 10 years with a 10 year renewal.
Johansen and Tuttle is developing the design for the project that will meet the technical and environmental criteria.
A 404 permit from the Army Corp of Engineers is also required as well as a reclamation plan. The county will advertise for the contractor to build the basin.
The permitting may be in place for the project to start in September.
The hope was to be in construction before now, but when the project changed and became a larger project when more monies came in, the scope of the project changed and higher requirements were needed.
Commissioner Horrocks opened the meeting for public comments. Lee McElprang said the area where the basin will be constructed is on his permit. He said someone will need to man the screen and keep it cleaned especially during runoff events.
Commissioner Horrocks said the county and the water conservancy district would take care of that.
Cody Allred from the Huntington power plant said the project is critical for the power plant, because the plant cannot take in and use the water when it is that dirty. The dirty water has residual impacts too with more extensive overhauls. Allred wondered if there will be any water interruption during the construction phase.
The NRCS said they will keep the water supply going during the construction phase. Allred said the power plant is also replacing components in the diversion structure and gates that were damaged last year with the flooding episodes.
Sherrel Ward from the Huntington-Cleveland Irrigation Company and also the public lands council said he had hopes the project could be expedited to be ready for the summer storms, but now it looks like it won't be ready until spring run-off next year. He said he feels it's an emergency situation if these floods come down and shut down and ruin a $64 million irrigation project. The pipes fill with sediment and the settling ponds fill with debris.
Jay Mark Humphrey from the Emery Water Conservancy district said his crews worked all spring removing sediment from ponds and along the creek. They spent $130,000 removing sediment.
Commissioner Horrocks said they are trying to move the project along as quickly as possible.
The number of days the project could take once construction begins is 60-80.
Ted Curtis from the Huntington-Cleveland Irrigation system said the irrigation system recently installed serves all the irrigators in the drainage and it was not built for sediments of these levels. It can destroy the components.
Jeff Guymon said he is a Huntington irrigator and the canals are filled with sediment and must be dug down so even a small stream of water can pass along.
He said if a private company had done as much damage to downstream users as the forest service has they would be held accountable. He wondered how the forest service can go ahead and do the work they have been doing at Mill Canyon, Pole Canyon and other locations. They have equipment up there and they've been doing projects without delay. "I'm in favor of this project for now and in the future. There is timber up there that is still going to burn and come down," said Guymon.
Claubaugh said the forest service prepared a BAER plan and the BLM did not. So that's why there must be an environmental study and she must follow a process. She had thought the basin project would qualify under a categorical exclusion, but when the project became larger, it did not.
Huntington mayor Hilary Gordon said Huntington City worked clearing out Chinese Elms and cleaning Huntington creek below the town of Huntington. She is afraid that work will be undone if the debris basin isn't completed in a timely manner. "You can't hurry government," said Gordon.
Jacob Sharp, manager of the Castle Valley Special Service District spoke in favor of the project. "There are six or seven places where the water lines pass over Huntington Creek. We are confident in the designs. When we inspected the water lines, the water came very close to the pipeline. If it were to wipe it out, it would eliminate the (culinary) water supply. It was very close. We are in favor of the project." Sharp said there is a back-up water treatment plant, but it cannot treat the black water and make it usable. Commissioner Horrocks thanked everyone for attending and for their comments.