Public Lands Council
The Emery County Public Lands Council heard from Bevan Wilson regarding mineral lease money and how it comes into the county. Wilson said recent changes have made it so one source of revenue can go directly into the general fund. The other source of revenue must go directly into the special service districts. In the past the mineral lease revenue has mostly been from coal leases on federal lands. As times have changed more and more of the revenue is from gas production. Carbon County went through this transition period and it is now happening to Emery County as coal production decreases and gas production increases.
Wilson told of the Emery County Road District number one and the projects they have accomplished with mineral lease monies. The first priority projects were the coal haulroads to bring them up to standard and make them safer. From there the district moved onto roads that were bus routes. These roads were prioritized and completed in that order. The emergency service roads came next including the Moore Road to I-70. There is usually a cost share involved in the road projects. It's usually 80/20 match. The coal company roads were usually a 50/50 match. The Utah State Parks access funds have also helped with the Goblin Valley road.
Wilson's suggestion to the council was to establish a quarterly meeting facilitated by the council to get the gas and oil producers together to discuss projections and developments for the short term, medium term and down the road. These meetings would allow the county to look down the road and see the projections for the mineral lease monies.
Wilson said they have always had good cooperation with the coal companies in getting their production reports.
Wilson praised the lands council saying it is a good organization and here for the use of the commission to keep the county up to speed on what's going on with public lands and mineral extraction in the county.
Council member Gary Petty wondered what the ratio of mineral lease monies come back to the county. Wilson said the government takes 2 percent for oversight fees and then the remainder is divided, 50/50 between the state and the federal government. Each state involved has their own formula for dividing the money once it reaches the state. After everyone has had their cut at the state level approximately 38 percent comes back into the counties which were impacted by the development of the mineral extraction.
Petty asked the question about how some coal mines have adversely affected springs and if any money is available for mitigating those situations. Wilson replied mineral lease money can't be used for projects which benefit private enterprises.
The question was raised on who develops the roads to the gas wells. Commissioner Gary Kofford said in the Hiawatha area the gas companies have constructed their own roads. In some cases they use existing county roads. At some point in the future the county will look at the roads developed by the gas companies and see if it's a road they want to put in the county road system. One gas company tore up a road in the desert and they are working with the county to come up with a way to keep that road maintained. Kofford believes the leases in the Green River area will have a big impact on roads.
Wilson said Emery County has an encroachment policy to deal with companies and roads and this opens up the discussion on impacts to roads with the companies involved. Wilson said discussion and cooperation is the way to deal with these impact issues.
Chuck Semborski made a comment on the statement regarding coal production. He said statewide the coal produced has remained constant but the change has come in regards to coal leases on federal lands. These coal leases on federal lands have decreased and more leases are now on SITLA lands due to the land exchanges involved with the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the SITLA formulas are different for the distribution of the mineral lease money.
Ray Petersen, public lands director also pointed out gas production formulas are different.
The council determined Priscilla Burton would chair the subcommittee and Chuck Semborski will co-chair in getting the gas companies to meet together quarterly. Some discussion was held as to a good time for this and the subcommittee will meet and decide how to proceed.
Wayne Ludington from the Bureau of Land Management said a Wild Horse and Burro adoption was held at the Castle Dale Fairgrounds and 43 horses and eight burros were available for adoption. Eight horses and four burros were adopted out and they haven't been brought back. Typically he said after every sale they have some of the animals brought back, but not this time.
Ludington reported the Order of the Arrow Scout project went well. They have been checking the Buckhorn Draw area and there is very minimal regrowth. "We hope for a high success rate," said Ludington.
Petersen wondered how the project will be maintained. Ludington said the local scouts have volunteered to help keep the tamarisk down. Anyone wishing to volunteer their group to help can contact the BLM.
Kofford pointed out the need to eradicate upstream so seeds aren't carried to areas downstream.
Burton said there are monies available to fight the tamarisk if the county declares it a noxious weed. Petersen said they had checked on that previously and it might not be to the county's benefit to declare the tamarisk a noxious weed.
Mike McCandless, economic development director, asked Ludington about the Millsite nine hole expansion at the golf course. They had been told they were close on all the clearances and now it seems they have started over. Each delay on the project costs money.
McCandless said the archaeology study was completed last fall and clearances were supposed to be forthcoming but there has been one delay after the other. Ludington agreed to find out what is going on and will meet with those involved to talk it over but he wasn't making any promises.
Sherrel Ward, council member asked Ludington if there was any chance of wild horse gathering on Mackay Flat. Ludington said they had lost their gathering money and no funds were available. The lands council members let Ludington know many areas of the San Rafael where the horses water is drying up and the BLM needs to get out there and look at the water situation for the wild horses.
Ludington reported there have been a few small fires in the area and we are moving into the fire season now. Ludington also reported a second toilet is being added at the Swinging Bridge campground.
XTO is developing five wells in the Gentry area and the Mohrland Road has been improved so much that two vehicles can pass in most places. Kofford also reported private property on Gentry is being timbered and logging trucks will also be using that road.