Council discusses drought situation
The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on July 9 at 10 a.m. Those present were Chairman Dennis Worwood, Vernell Rowley, Wes Curtis, Tom Roush, Joe Fielder, Kirk Johansen, Craig Johansen, Dennis Worwood, Val Payne, Commissioners Ira Hatch, Drew Sitterud and Randy Johnson.
The first item of business was the approval of the previous meeting minutes. Chairman Worwood next called for the subcommittee reports. Recreation was first on the list with Roush reporting that they have been holding their subcommittee meetings and their talk has centered around Public Lands Day which is scheduled for Sept. 27. They have talked to Tom Gnojcek who is a landscape architect from the BLM. Work will be done to restore Swasey's Cabin, there has been a lot of erosion of the road with it being four feet deep in some places.
Some fencing will occur around the cabin to keep the cattle away from the cabin. A toilet will be installed as well as some buck and rail fencing. The area which will exclude the cows will be kept as small as possible so as not to interfere with the grazing heritage of the area. Roush said they will be meeting with permittees in the area at the site for further discussion. The ruts in the road will also be addressed with BLM offering suggestions in the matter.
Curtis reported for the heritage subcommittee saying that in the report Brenda Barrett from the Department of the Interior made concerning her trip to Utah; she said that Emery County with their proximity to public lands has a lot of challenges in dealing with these public lands. She said she found the people in the communities here to be big hearted and very welcoming and talented. She feels a Heritage Area is a good outlet for local heritage crafts. She could see the good of a Heritage Area for the region because of the self-reliant people found in Emery County. Curtis reported that Barrett felt very positive about her visit to Emery County. He also reported that they are not sure they will have a hearing in Washington for the Heritage Bill, because it has already been heard twice. Curtis tentatively thought the bill would start moving in late July.
An idea was voiced to invite the coordinators from the Heritage Area in Pennsylvania to tour the Emery County area. Commissioner Hatch said they had visited the Pennsylvania area a few years ago and had invited them out at the time. He stated it would be good to get their perspective and ideas on our area.
The cowboy poetry book is nearing completion. The community kiosks and the I-70 kiosks are all a work in progress. When Barrett reviewed the areas in her report on Emery County she emphasized the importance of having proper signs with attractions listed. Truman said when the kiosks are completed I-70 and Highway 10, will all be signed with the resources of Emery County available for visitors to the area to take advantage of.
The report on grazing was not given because Dickson Huntington was on the mountain moving cattle due to the fire on Horn Mountain. Worwood reported that John Healey from the forest service said they might have to make more reductions in cattle numbers on the mountain. He also said several cattlemen associations have made voluntary reductions and have sent less cattle to the mountain than their quota. Worwood said the forest service appreciated the cooperation of the cattlemen during these times of drought conditions.
Fielder reported on the land exchange, he said he had talked to Steve Boyden and the map they put forth here at a meeting is what they are going with. He said the Molen Reef area had still been left off, but when the trade is completed, Boyden believed they will still have enough funds available to do some horse trading in regards to that country. Commissioner Hatch said a main concern has been that Molen Reef country and as soon as it passes into state ownership, the state will work with us on the matter.
The state legislature would be taking action on the matter at a special session of the legislature where they were also reviewing budget shortfalls.
Andrew Johnson was next on the agenda with an update on the fire on Horn Mountain. He also spoke about Willow Lake which is a popular spot for camping. Plans are being made to improve the campground and outhouse facility. Along the loop road will be 10 camping spurs. One thousand yards of gravel has been laid down to improve the road and a wider cattleguard has been installed to make the turn easier for trailers. A parking lot for day use is being planned with an information kiosk concerning the Arapeen Trail System. Ten fire rings are also being installed as well as perimeter fencing. Willow Lake Campground will become a fee demo area like Potters Pond with a $3 charge per car for overnight use. The day use of the facility will remain free. Any money collected will go back into the site for future improvements and maintenance.
The addition of another outhouse at the facility will cost $11,000. Fees will begin being collected on Aug. 1. Johnson also pointed out all 10 camping spurs were full at Willow over the 4th of July weekend. Road condition in the area isn't good, but no plans are being made at present time to improve the road because of the drought; any blading of the road would result in it just turning to dust. Later on improvements might be made to the road by taking a water truck to the site as it is improved, but no plans are final at this time.
Johnson also reported that crews are working in the Ferron Reservoir area in cutting down hazard trees which include dead pines and aspens. This has also been done at Willow. Commissioner Johnson said they like the fact that the fees collected at Willow will remain there and the public lands council voiced their support for the improvements to the campground.
Commissioner Hatch said they are still waiting for word on access for boats at Huntington Reservoir in Huntington Canyon. Johnson said it is still being worked on at the present time.
The next item was the Bureau of Land Management update. They reported the Moore Road environmental assessment has been completed and that copies are out. The comment period will end on July 27 afterwhich time all comments will be considered in the final edition. Commissioner Hatch pointed out that they can move ahead with the project as it is ironed out.
On the BLM travel plan they are currently reviewing comments. Also on the resource management plan they are currently gathering data to develop alternatives.
Craig Johansen gave the report on water. He said things are not getting any better and that on the Cottonwood they would be out of water by Sept. 1. Commissioner Johnson thought it remarkable that they would be able to make it that long.
The next discussion was on the water situation at Skyline Mine. Commissioner Hatch said the costs of the study to determine where the water in the mine is coming from is estimated to be $1.7 million. Utah Power has started their own study. There is more water going out of Electric Lake than coming in. Commissioner Hatch said Utah Power is currently putting out a feeler to lease water. They needed 5,000 acre feet and have found approximately 2300-2400 acre feet. Commissioner Johnson said the whole issue is of great concern to the county. They want to be on top of the issue and be able to defend what belongs to Emery County. The county cannot afford the $1.7 million for the study but could possibly partner with others.
Worwood pointed out that the mine cannot afford to pump much longer and they are moving out of that section of the mine. It is estimated they have eight years of mining on the other side before they would have to return to the area with the water problem. The water pumped from the inside of the mine is drained into Scofield and the water from the well outside of the mine is drained back into Electric Lake.
Craig Johansen explained the work that had been done in changing the classification of Electric Lake so it could receive that water pumped from the mine. Worwood pointed out the problem is there is not an outlet for the water on this side of the mountain. Fielder wondered about the study that Utah Power is doing. Commissioner Johnson said that Utah Power wants to determine the size of the aquifer, but the main thrust of their study is to try to determine what is happening to their lake. Commissioner Hatch said there is not a simple solution to the situation. Johansen said the mine is still full of water and they have never been able to pump enough to catch up.
Worwood wondered if they should invite Skyline officials to a public lands meeting to discuss the problem. Commissioner Hatch said that Skyline had pretty well laid out what they were going to do at the meeting that had been held in Price. He said the three counties, Emery, Carbon and Sanpete, planned on banning together to approach the CIB for funding for the study.
Bruce Richardson from Senator Bob Bennett's office was introduced to the lands council. He will be working out of Ogden and involved in issues throughout the state. He said he views his new appointment as a huge challenge.
Peggy Harrison from Congressman Chris Cannon's office mentioned two bills being heard, one H.R. 4840 to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to ensure the use of sound science in the implementation of that act. The other H.R. 4620 to accelerate the wilderness designation process by establishing a timetable for the completion of wilderness studies on federal lands, and for other purposes. She also mentioned the full funding for PILT. The BLM will pay those directly to the local governments to help them receive the funds quicker.
Commissioner Johnson reported the Heritage Bill would be attached to a package somewhere around July 24. Craig Johansen wondered if they were any closer to having the Division of Wildlife Resources come to a meeting and discuss wildlife numbers with the lands council. Payne explained that Huntington is composing a letter to be sent to the DWR to request such a meeting.
The meeting moved into executive session to discuss the Ward versus Emery County lawsuit. County Attorney Dave Blackwell explained the lawsuit is based on the allegation that the lands council and the county commission held closed door meetings and improperly acted in supporting monument legislation.
The next public lands council meeting will be held on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m.