Public lands places information kiosks at MK Tunnel sites
A volunteer crew from Emery County Public Lands Department, Road Department, Historic Preservation Commission and Historical Society recently installed new interpretive signs at two locations in the Buckhorn Draw area. The signs provide information about the Morrison-Knudson Tunnels and are a culmination of several years of collaboration with United States Department of Defense, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, and Emery County. Sadly, some of the most dramatic, vertical sites have been backfilled and all of portals have been closed to access by the installation of steel grating. Emery County officials made every attempt to preserve the sites and allow access. Federal authority prevailed however, and closures were implemented according to BLM standards.
It is still possible to visually experience some of the remaining sites, and the new signs help visitors to understand the dramatic events which took place during the cold war era. The signs include history of the project and historic photographs of one of the larger explosions. Other features in the Buckhorn area are also included. The signing project was funded by DOD and Emery County Archives researched and compiled the information used in the signage.
August Public Lands meeting
The regular August meeting of the Emery County Public Lands Council began with agency reports. Wayne Ludington of the Bureau of Land Management reported on the MK tunnel project. He said the big tunnels have been filled and bat grates installed. He reported Karl Ivory from the BLM received a national award for his work on noxious weeds from the national boy scout organization along with Mesia Nyman and John Healy. There is also a possibility of an award coming from Washington DC for the boy scout project last summer which abated tamarisk in the Swell. Ludington reported a wild horse gathering on the Muddy and some of the horses gathered went to Delta. Some were in bad condition. Some will be placed back out there after they have been conditioned. Eighty head of burros were taken off last year and so the BLM won't be looking at burros for awhile.
Some of the mares may be treated to reduce production. The horses won't be put back right away because some of the areas are distressed from lack of water. Moisture in June did help the range for the horses. He also reported there have been some unauthorized releases of domestic horses in the west desert. This causes problems for the horses because they don't know where the watering holes are in a new area. Ludington said right now the Price office doesn't have a field manager and Roger Bankert is now at the State BLM office. Kathryn Lloyd is a new recreation manager for the BLM.
Sherrel Ward, lands council member wondered about the trail systems by Green River. Ludington said those routes were removed from the Resource Management Plan, but the BLM has plans to work on them. Right now the BLM is just waiting for the litigation to work out, before they go forward with those plans.
Councilmember Guy Webster expressed concern about the lack of maintenance on certain routes around Green River. Ludington said they will look into that. Webster said many of those roads are used in the big horn sheep hunts which are upcoming and they would appreciate a quick response in looking into maintenance of these roads.
Marc Stilson from the Division of Water Rights said there will be a meeting on Colorado River policy on Sept. 29 in Price from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and endangered fish and basic water rights will be discussed. A location is pending but most likely it will be at the Carbon County Events Center.
Dana Dean from the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining reported a MK tunnel meeting would be held to discuss the MK tunnels in regard to the new legislation which calls for the preservation of cold war sites. On Lila Canyon mine, they have crossed into the federal lease area. It will be up to one and a half years before coal will be mined.
Dean updated the council on the Bear Canyon mine bankruptcy. She said the court decided the sale of the mine to Hiawatha Coal company was fraudulent and the rights were turned over to the trustee, Kevin Rushton. His job is to maximize profits and pay creditors. The Hiawatha Coal Company maintains they are the rightful owners of the mine. A court hearing is slated for Sept. 10. The mine is currently under a cessation order from DOGM until the rightful owner is established. The trustee has some potential bids for the mining of the coal and Hiawatha Coal can bid on it. There was some question as to how another coal company could bid on the coal and how they would access the coal as all the surface rights belong to Hiawatha Coal Company. Dean said it would all be worked out in the court. Bear Canyon mine has installed a long wall and they were allowed to finish the panel they were mining, but haven't been allowed to further develop any panels.
A horizontal well was approved for Bill Barrett Company in Emery County. Dean asked everyone to take a customer service survey being conducted by DOGM to help them better serve their customers.
Bill Bates from the Division of Wildlife Resources said the trade lands for Range Creek lands for some Gordon Creek lands is in the comment period. Bates reported a successful retrieval of cutthroat eggs from Duck Fork Reservoir. The hunts should be good, the buck/doe ratio is good and there is no reason not to have an excellent hunt. The San Rafael River Restoration project is going well and tamarisk is being removed and waterways restored to a more natural state.
Bryan Torgerson from SITLA reported there won't be an October land sale for SITLA.
Donna Sackett from Sen. Bennett's office reported the Senator is trying something new and is on YouTube and he addresses what's going on in the Senate and tells where he stands on key issues. Representatives from Sen. Hatch reported that Sen. Hatch is involved with tax incentives for the development of natural gas vehicles. If you have a natural gas vehicle it is hard to find places to fuel up. This legislation provides tax incentives for those who already deal in natural gas to develop more fueling locations. The Secretary of the Interior ended all uranium mining on the Arizona strip. Forty percent of the reserves are on that strip. Sen. Hatch wrote him a letter reminding him that sources of uranium are needed for nuclear power and other uses and that cutting off this source for uranium is harmful to energy development. Sen. Hatch reminded Sec. Salazar that green power, solar and wind has no base load capacity and that nuclear is best for base load. Alternatives are needed for carbon energy, but shutting down the development of uranium sources is foolish.
The council wondered what the possibilities are for a community like Green River to get natural gas. Mike McCandless, Emery County Economic Development director said they are working on a bill right now which includes Green River, Kanab, Emery and Wayne County to bring natural gas to those communities. Sen. Hatch voted no on Judge Sotomayer and no on health care reform and will be introducing a bill of his own on health care.
Randall Stilson, council member said with the upcoming hunts that ATV riders need to be responsible and stay on the trails.
Councilmember, Mistie Christiansen wants the public lands council to get out information about what they are doing in regards to a land use bill and put it on the website. She feels much misinformation is out there.
Ward said he feels the watershed is a big issue and maintaining water sheds. Added money is needed for enforcement. Council chairman Bruce Wilson said the forest service needs more money in their budget so they can manage the land properly.
The next lands council meeting is Sept. 1 at 10 a.m. with a work meeting at 9 a.m.
Editor's note: On the Bear Canyon Mine court hearing, some reports say the date has been postponed.