The Emery County Commission met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 4 at 4 p.m. Those present were Commissioners Drew Sitterud, Ira Hatch and Gary Kofford. Sheriff Lamar Guymon and County Attorney Dave Blackwell with his job shadow for the day, Caleb Worthen.
The first item on the agenda was the Bureau of Land Management update by Patrick Gubbins. He said the route designation plan was signed on Feb. 3. He reported that 667 miles of roads were left open and in conjunction with county roads that leaves 2,000 miles of open road for motorized recreationists. He said they have received a lot of response from the public here and out of state. The BLM has tried to reach a balanced approach in the plan. There is a 30 day appeal process for the travel plan.
Gubbins also said the BLM is in the process of drafting alternatives for the resource management plan and that a draft bulletin for wild and scenic rivers will be coming out in the next two-three weeks.
It was also reported that wells will be drilled in Huntington Canyon on county property.
Commissioner Hatch said he hadn't had a chance to go over the route designation plan yet. He expressed the need for the county to stay involved in the wild and scenic river designations. "It is a vital issue," said Commissioner Hatch. He also expressed appreciation for Floyd Johnson from the BLM and his willingness to listen to the county's thoughts on the RMP process.
Gubbins mentioned the BLM allotments and the looming continued drought. He said he will keep the commission informed on that issue. He also mentioned that the wild and scenic rivers will go through a public comment period before the suitability process would begin. Gubbins said maps of the route designation plan are available at local libraries and the museum. Another shipment of maps is expected in April.
Mesia Nyman from the forest service was next with an update. She said they have studied the county's comments on wild and scenic rivers. They currently have two rivers in the eligibility phase. The Left Fork of the Huntington River to Miller's Flat and the lower Huntington River below Electric Lake.
Nyman reported that the Farm Bureau will be hosting a series of meetings on the drought in Ephraim, Moab, Richfield and Cedar City on Feb. 20 and 21. The forest service plans on attending those meetings. She said that Elaine Zieroth, forest supervisor for the Manti-LaSal has sent a letter to the permittees regarding the drought. The letter explained that this is the driest the forest has been in 108 years. The 2002 drought was so severe that some plants never broke out of dormancy and many had abbreviated seasons. Many areas experienced plant mortality. The forest service, farm bureau, scientists, and experts in drought management will help the permittees plan their grazing year.
Zieroth told permittees to anticipate fewer numbers on summer ranges, going on later and that allowable use levels will be reached earlier which will result in cattle being removed earlier than normal.
Nyman presented a biomass stress map which shows areas which are hardest hit to the commission. She also said that a committee will be formed which will look at the rangeland on an allotment by allotment basis and will determine the best strategy to take in the upcoming season.
Nyman reported that they have not yet heard from the owner of the Skyhaven resort in Ferron Canyon. She said the deadline was Dec. 31; they have also heard that perhaps the owner had a buyer but that wasn't clear. She said one of their options is to remove the facilities, but at this time they will let things go another month to see if the owner comes in with a buyer then they would look at that option.
Nyman reported the forest service is currently revising the forest plan which has been in place since 1986. They are looking at what has changed in that time and the plan will be revised accordingly. They will also be looking at motorized recreation. They have met with the county to look at issues for revising the plan and it will take several years to complete as they are just getting started. Public meetings are being planned for public input the end of February.
Nyman reported that the test sites which had detected that hair of lynx last year has had hair samples from bears but no lynx. She also said the report that a radio signal was heard was not valid because that lynx had died in Colorado before the sighting here. She said they will continue to collect samples at the test sites.
The forest service has a list of projects which will be worked on in 2003 one of which is the rerouting of the road on SOB hill. In association with the county, mag water will be laid down on the dugway. They also have plans to change Littles Creek road to a trail after Blue Lake. This is in the NEPA scoping process. Also Georges Fork will be converted to a trail with the closure a mile back towards Duck Fork. That is also in the NEPA process. Around Millers Flat there will be the hardening of some dispersed camping sites and the closing of some trails.
Commissioner Hatch brought up the need for small boat access at Huntington Reservoir in Huntington Canyon. Nyman said they would look into that need.
The low water boat ramp at Joes Valley is in the NEPA scoping process, a decision memo on the matter will be handed down which is not an appealable decision Nyman explained. The forest service will be retreating tarweed around Huntington and Cleveland Reservoirs. The well drilled on Middle Mountain has been completed. The forest service will also issue a NEPA document on mining leases on North Horn and Trail Mountain. These are SITLA tracts. The forest service is almost ready to release a decision on the South Crandall tracts.
Commissioner Sitterud questioned Nyman as to the proposed designations on the Huntington River for wild and scenic. She reported that the Left Fork was a scenic designation and the Huntington was listed as recreation.
The Division of Wildlife Resources was next on the agenda with Derris Jones giving an update. He reported that of the 1,500 samples taken on deer; 80 percent have been tested for chronic wasting disease and there hasn't been a positive or a suspect result as of yet. Within 25 miles of the Utah border in Colorado near Dinosaur National Park a positive test has been confirmed. "We will continue to monitor and will extend away from the border further into the state and test statewide. If you see any sick looking deer or elk please report them to us so we can pick them up and have them tested. Animals with the chronic wasting disease will have emaciated carcasses and heavy saliva. They will lose their fear of people. The disease is related to Blue Tongue in sheep.
"We have moved 25 big horn sheep from Chimney to Dirty Devil. We would like to thank the county for grading the road so we could get in there to do the sheep transplant. We transplanted 19 ewes and six rams. Six sheep from near Green River have also been relocated to Baretop up in Daggett County.
"The winter has been kind to big game but with no moisture to produce forage, it's just delaying the inevitable. The antlerless numbers for the hunts will be set in April. We'll have to see what the drought does. We need livestock and sportsmen to contribute comments and voice their opinions at the RAC meeting which will be coming up in Price."
The DWR and the BLM are working together on the Wilcox property in Range Creek to develop a drainage wide management plan. Jones also presented a check to the commission for the payment in lieu of taxes in the amount of $2,761.
A question from the audience brought up the problem that Huntington/Cleveland irrigation is having with beaver. Jones suggested they contact the office and their damage technician would take a look at it.
Nyman from the forest service said they would take any beaver the DWR is having a problem with. The forest service has areas where they could use them.
The next item on the agenda was Mike Dunwoody with discussion on the Emery County Public Lands Council. Dunwoody expressed his opinion that the council does not represent the people and that the input of the people is not being heard. The council is made up of the three commissioners and eight appointed members. He suggested a steering committee which represents all stake holders. He also suggested a new charter which would make representation easier to define. He proposed to draft a new charter and present it to the commission. Commissioner Hatch said that they do have a charter and that they listen to the people and the input from the people. I don't know what changes you would make. The lands council was set up originally so every issue didn't come before the commission and that input and discussion took place and then the issue was brought back before the commission. Hatch suggested that Dunwoody present his ideas to the body of the lands council as it involves them and their operations.
Dunwoody said that Jeff Durrant from BYU has been asked by Sally Wisely from the Utah BLM to make recommendations for the management of the Swell. According to Durrant's study, people felt like their ideas were getting filtered out before they reached the commission.
Commissioner Kofford said this has come about because a group of people need a way to communicate and become part of the lands council and they need to look at the process to ensure that they have representation. It seems that only the grazers and water have representation and that recreational interests aren't adequately represented. He suggested that more positions could be added to the council so representation of recreationists and sportsmen could be accommodated. He felt that somewhere the need for tourism and recreation representation to equalize the lands council was in order so all players have input. "You need to look at how you've set it up," Commissioner Kofford stressed.
Commissioner Kofford encouraged Dunwoody to make a draft recommendation and bring it before the lands council.
Dunwoody stated that he wasn't here before the commission on his own behalf, but he was representing a large group of people who had these concerns about the functioning of the lands council.
The next item on the agenda was the letter of agreement between the Four Corners Community Behavioral Health and the Emery County Sheriff's Office for the drug court officer. Sheriff Guymon said the drug court program was working very well. Those in the program are put on probation and are in a position to hold jobs. They are subject to drug testing at any time. The officer visits them at home and at work. If a person has a dirty urine test then they could be sent to jail to serve their original sentence and would lose drug court privileges. "The program enables people to get clean and straighten up their lives if they choose," said Sheriff Guymon.
The next item on the agenda was the consideration and acceptance of IGES proposal for engineering and permitting support services in preparing a solid waste permit renewal package for the landfill. This plan deals with the material to be used to cover an area of the landfill dealing with final cover. The original plan submitted didn't meet state requirements and they've come up with an alternative. Rex Funk, road department supervisor, said that using natural materials will streamline and simplify the closure requirements.
The next item on the agenda was the consideration and approval of a resolution authorizing the issuance and sale of $1,000,000 principal amount of general obligation public purpose bonds, series 2003A of Castle Valley Special Service District.
District Manager Darrel Leamaster explained that in the Nov. 2001 election that voters approved the bond issue for the CVSSD and they are now in the process of issuing bonds. A $1 million bond will be issued with the CIB and also a $750,000 grant from the CIB will be used for roads and streets. One fourth of the money will be used for curb and gutter; one-fourth on storm drains. The CVSSD will close on the bond on Mar. 21.
Leamaster also described a $2.1 million project to relocate the waste water lagoons to the east and south of Ferron. They are currently looking at sites to move the lagoons out of town.
Leamaster also addressed a complaint that some of the curb and gutter previously installed was not in ADA compliance. He said that the design has been changed to meet compliance and that currently there is no standard for public right of ways and they are waiting on a new standard. The counties will not be required to go back and retrofit when these new standards come on line.
The 2.1 million dollar bond for the Ferron Project will be sold publicly and not taken to the CIB. The interest rates are favorable at this time for the district to take this approach.
The commission approved the bonds. The next item was the discussion of the county GRAMA procedures and associated forms. It was determined that the attorney's office would handle these requests. There is a short time frame in which these requests must be met and the county attorney will determine if it is legal for specific information to be given out. The discussion centered mainly on personal information from resumes and like items. GRAMA refers to government records access management act.
The next item was the consideration of a request by the Utah Division of Emergency Services and Homeland Security to use several Emery County GIS data bases.
The request was granted. The state was impressed with the sophistication of the county GIS system and recognized the county in realizing the importance of GIS early in the process.
The next item was the discussion of the I-70 enhancement project.
The panels will need to be installed on the pedestals to complete the project.
The contractor has not been paid yet and it was determined that he be paid with the understanding that he complete the project when the panels arrive.
The next commission meeting will be held on Feb. 18 at 9 a.m.