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Front Page » November 1, 2005 » Local News » Public lands hears update on Swinging Bridge project
Published 4,136 days ago

Public lands hears update on Swinging Bridge project

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The Swinging Bridge over the San Rafael River when work first began.

The Swinging Bridge just received a needed facelift reported Vernell Rowley at the Emery County Public Lands Council meeting. He expressed appreciation to Ray Petersen, public lands director and Rex Funk, road department director for their help on the project. "Some of the boards on the deck were replaced and some of the sideboards. They made it safe for walking," said Rowley. The Swinging Bridge is a significant landmark on the San Rafael Swell and the preservation of it is very important to the Emery County preservation commission.

Public lands chairman Bruce Wilson reported XTO Energy has plans for five new compression stations and two new wells in the Stump Flat area, the wells will be directional wells.

Tory Ward in the Recreation subcommittee report said they would like to get easements on the SITLA land near Huntington and also the Poker Ride land. Mark H. Williams came to the Huntington city council meeting to discuss it and the mayor and city council were favorable to pursuing this avenue in obtaining a right-of-way for these lands. A committee is being formed by the lands council to define the advantages and disadvantages to such right-of-ways.

Commissioner Drew Sitterud expressed concern on purchasing right-of-ways on roads and trails which are our roads anyway due to RS-2477 right-of-ways.

It was decided that a maintenance plan for the trail above Huntington would need to be put together. SITLA also has funds available for trail maintenance which could be tapped into should the county acquire the right-of-way.

Wilson instructed the committee to put together a plan to present to the commissioners. Killian said she is also working with area ranchers to ease tensions. She said ranching brings a lot of money into the county, but also tourism brings in money and should be encouraged. She said in Carbon County the Sageriders OHV Club has worked with cattlemen on several projects and she would like that working relationship between the two groups to be more amiable in Emery County. Open communication between the OHVs and ranchers is needed and when projects are in the works, the groups should come together at the beginning to discuss projects and their affects on the various user groups.

Sherrel Ward reported that Desert Lake had seen plenty of duck hunters. The salinity project is proceeding and the engineers are almost ready to open the bids and that work should begin in the county next spring on the main trunk of the project. Ward reported that precipitation is 116 percent of normal with Electric Lake being 55 percent full; Huntington North 28 percent; Huntington Reservoir 23 percent; Cleveland Reservoir 62 percent; Millers Flat 31 percent; Joes Valley 70 percent and Millsite 61 percent.

Mike McCandless, county economic development director, reported he had attended the natural resources water development meeting on the appropriation of the Colorado River. The river is overappropriated and no new water rights are being approved. Water users who have filed rights and have not proved up on these rights are in danger of losing them. Most of these rights in danger are those filed in the 1950s. These rights are being reviewed. With approximately 393,000 acre feet of undeveloped claims and only approximately 303,000 acre feet available; that leaves approximately 90,000 acre feet of water that has been claimed, but is not available. In the future a water project that will pump water from Lake Powell to St. George, Cedar City and Kanab could take a good chunk of available water.. "It is important that our municipalities and special service district have all proved up on their water rights," said McCandless. It is possible to get on the data base for water rights and check on claims through the Department of Natural Resources website under Division of Water Rights.

Workers on the Swinging Bridge pose for a photo.

The Julius Flat development is one water right in the Emery district that needs to be proved up. McCandless reported that water will go to the developed (populated) areas. Agriculture users account for 70 percent of water use which is why irrigation projects are so important to increase efficiency for water use.

Derris Jones from the DWR reported the annual bucks and bulls RAC meeting will be coming up on Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell River Museum in Green River. Jones reported that 500 people had obtained permits to visit Range Creek this summer. Three percent came from Carbon County and 90 percent of the visitors were from out of the area. CEU and the Carbon Recreation have taken people into Range Creek on two days a month. "If there is anything the division can do to help Emery County derive some benefit out of Range Creek let us know." Jones said they would like to create a partnership where people could come and spend a night or two and visit Range Creek and also experience recreational opportunities in Emery County. Jones was questioned on whether ownership of Range Creek might change from the DWR. Jones said the governor had visited Range Creek along with University of Utah people and whatever happens CEU will need to remain a part of what happens and the hunters and fishermen still need access. No plans have been made yet for any change of ownership. Currently the state parks and DWR are sharing law enforcement duties in the canyon. Range Creek is a limited entry draw area for elk and you need to draw a tag and then also obtain a day use permit. Anyone with a southeastern region deer permit can go in there with a day use permit on foot or horseback only. Someone killed a large buck in there on the archery hunt.

Mesia Nyman with the forest service reported that with the hunt on the ATVs are all over the place and it's a hard issue to be successful with especially during the deer and elk hunt. She said that signing doesn't last long and that new trails are made each year and enforcement is slim. She is open to suggestions for solutions.

She reported the controlled burn scheduled for the Jungle would be pushed back to next summer because it is too wet. The cabins on Skyhaven have been purchased except for three and whatever is left will be burned. She said that 2006 projects have been scheduled and they will do as much as possible with a tight budget. In 2006 they will finish the forest plan revision. There will be approximately 12 fuels reduction projects, including thinning around Black Dragon and Ferron Reservoir and also pile burnings from previous thinning in some areas. There will be a mechanical thinning on Middle Mountain. An environmental impact study will be done on a proposed pipeline near Electric Lake. A hazardous fuels treatment will be done outside of the town of Scofield. Gas wells have been applied for along Upper Joes to Skyline.

In 2008, approximately 1,000 Order of the Arrow scouts will be in the area and they will participate in a week long tamarisk removal project; where they will cut tamarisk and then they will be painted with a stump and root killer.

The forest service is still working toward having the Seely guard station available for rental by the public. Work will also continue on signing for roads and trails. Nyman reported they are looking for a water right in connection with the sage grouse guzzlers installed to replace water from ponds no longer holding water. They have been told this is an improvement without a water right and the state said reduce cattle or get a water right. Suggestions included talking to sportsmen who might purchase a water right for the sage grouse guzzler. Commissioner Gary Kofford said the state should be worried about bigger problems than the guzzlers. Jones said that Jerry Olds doesn't like changes in the point of diversion and since the water now comes by way of guzzler and not the pond, that is the difficulty. A meeting might be in order with Mark Page from the water rights to discuss the problem.

Nyman said a big worry is a judges ruling to eliminate categorical exclusions. These exclusions have been used for projects with little environmental impacts or known impacts. Also for small timbering projects, fuel treatments, mowing lawns and other smaller projects. This ruling could shut down a lot of projects in the forest. Categorical exclusions were non appealable and now they are appealable which opens the door for further input from the environmental community.

The next public lands council meeting will be on Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. in the county building.

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