The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their September meeting on Sept. 4.
Sherrel Ward reported the water study is nearing completion and he believes it will be very beneficial for water use planning for Emery County in the future. It makes recommendations for potential for future water development as well as models how water is used in Emery County at the present time. It will be made available soon. Ray Petersen, public lands director told of the field trip the group took in August to view the Seeley fire burn area and other areas of the forest. Brandon Hoffman from the forest service showed two maps which showed the fire intensity and the fire progression map on the field trip. It was interesting how the fire spread mostly to the north. There will be problems with flooding and debris flowing onto SR-31 and this problem will persist for the next three-five years. The road has been closed this past week for clean-up after another flooding event. The field trip group also viewed the area where the Groben burn will take place when conditions are right. The group stopped at Potter's Pond for lunch. They viewed the Lake Canyon area where campsites have been improved and some roads which lead to the same destination have been closed. It is hoped the Groben burn will regenerate aspen in the area. There have been fuels projects in a number of smaller areas. A pinion/juniper project near Joe's Valley utilized a machine that chops the trees into chips and they are spread over the ground and they hold the moisture and the grass is able to grow through the chips. The group also viewed Native American peeler trees.
In Straight Canyon the group stopped at the areas where bouldering are popular. The climbing association funds a porta potty for the climbers. The BLM is looking at the dispersed camping sites in the area.
Ward reported on the grazing. He said two-thirds of the Gentry allotment burned. One good thing was the cattle were not yet up there at the time of the fire. They had held off for two weeks because of the drought and took a 25 percent reduction in numbers. The grass there on Gentry looks good now. The forest service is taking a zero tolerance for cattle on the burn area. The grazers are doing everything they can to keep the cows off the burn area. They have invested in a $10,000 electric fence and put it around the burn areas. They have hired three men to ride the fence and keep it up and keep the cows off.
Ward said the environmentalists are up there all the time and they are concerned about the cattle eating any new growth in the burn area. Ward said they are concerned as well. They do not want to see the cattle removed from the mountain. Cattle are expected to be off Castle Valley Ridge for three years. Some repair work to troughs and springs is taking place. Ward said the Grand Canyon Trust is working to remove all cattle grazing from public lands.
Ward is concerned how everything is going to turn out. He believes if the grazers were able to work with the local forest service representatives they could work things out. The decisions he said are being made at a higher level than here locally and that's problematic. He is worried the resource of being able to graze cattle could be lost.
The forest service was meeting again on the forest with Commissioner James Nelson, David Blackham from the Dept. of Agriculture and others to evaluate how things are going with grazing and the recent fire.
One big concern right now with the soil in the burn area is its lack of ability to hold any water. Ward said there are several studies that say cattle in the burn area can be helpful and other studies that say keep them out. When the burned soil is disturbed with a track from a deer, elk or cattle then water gathers in that track. It will take years for the burn scar to heal and revegetate.
Petersen said the county is tentatively set to meet with the Natural Resources subcommitee on Nov. 14 for the Emery County Public Lands Use bill.
Bill Bates from the Division of Wildlife Resources said they are looking at increasing antlerless elk numbers because of the drought. They will increase 60 on the San Juan and 50 on the LaSals. These go on sale on Sept. 6.
They are also looking at additional permits for the Manti. Sept. 19 the RAC meeting will be held in Castle Dale and the subject is fishing. The DWR has decided to move the RAC meetings to different communities.
The coyote program has begun and check points where you can bring the coyotes will start on Sept. 12 in Price. To collect a bounty for a coyote you must be registered with the DWR.
The bounty is $50 per animal. The intent is to disrupt breeding pairs and to take coyotes that prey on deer fawns. You must bring in the scalp, both ears and lower jaw.
Bates reported the archery hunting has been slow, but most hunters wait until the last week to take their deer.
The elk are moving through the burn area and they like the edges around the fire where fresh grass is growing. The elk are not in their usual spots and have moved around quite a bit and into different areas than usual.
Kyle Beagley is new to the forest service and he said he replaced Tom Lloyd who recently retired. He works with mineral management. He has started on some projects including the North Water Springs in conjunction with SUFCO mine on a temporary change permit. Beagley is working to collect signatures from permitees so that water project can move forward. Spring 89 has been affected by subsidence from the SUFCO mine according to Beagley. There will be a solar pump that brings the water into troughs. A pipeline is still in the works for the project.
The Liberty Pioneer gas company has a permit to drill approved above Huntington Reservoir about a half a mile up the road. This has been planned for a few years.
Energy West Mining has been drilling exploratory holes up Cottonwood. Beagley will also work with the county on maintaining the Reeder gravel pit.
Mike McCandless reported the North Emery Water Association is redeveloping the springs in Rilda Canyon and that project will start next week.
They will work on one spring and then switch to the other so they can keep some water flowing, but it may make the water situation tight for the next month.
The forest service has hired crews to work on the trails and put in water control structures.
There are many trees still falling over trails and many stump holes that are still hot and smoldering. There has been a four person crew working and two eight person crews are expected to arrive soon. Some blasting work will need to be done along with the cutting work.
The trail work will carry over until next spring. Funds coming for the trail work are from the Burn Area Emergency Response fund.
Beagley added there is an old coal mine portal hole north of Wattis that's smoking and he is working with the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining to see what's going on there.
Eugene Swalberg, Utah State Parks manager at Goblin Valley and Green River State Park reported a transformer is ready to be set at Millsite State Park and campers there will be able to have power. The low water dock has been pulled out due to water receding below that dock. Huntington Lake State Park had a full park for Labor Day weekend and the boat limits were reached each day. There were many visitors to Goblin Valley. Water is still high enough you can float the Green River, but low water creates different conditions than normal.
Ward reported Huntington Lake is still 62 percent full and the water users there should be commended for keeping that reservoir full enough in this drought year that recreation could still be enjoyed there.
Concerns over sage grouse were voiced. The state and other agencies are taking measures to ensure the sage grouse doesn't end up on the endangered species list. The governor is asking for recommendations from each county.
Gary Petty, lands council member said the environmentalists are using the sage grouse as a tool to eliminate recreation, grazing and mining on public lands.
Miller's Flat has been drained low so the work on enlarging the dam there can be completed this fall. Cleveland Reservoir is at 51 percent. Huntington North is at 62 percent and Joe's Valley at 59 percent. Huntington Reservoir is at 78 percent and there is very little water in Rolfson. Electric Lake is at 70 percent. "This year there has been an amazing utilization of water. It was a lot better than expected," said Ward.
Petty reported the water year has been tough in Emery. They have left Julius Reservoir full so the drinking water in Emery won't freeze back. Ward said in the water study there are various suggestions for help with the water situation in Emery.
A lot of work has gone into the water study.
Petersen reported on the lawsuit the state has filed for the RS-2477 roads. The Attorney General's office contacted the county and said they are dropping 66 of the 367 roads from Emery County named in the lawsuit. These roads cannot be defended. This is a statewide lawsuit where the state is suing on all the roads out there. The witnesses that have testified to the existence of the RS-2477 roads are passing away and their history will be lost. Petersen said these 66 roads won't make a difference on the ground and are still in use. The lawsuit was refiled last week.
Concerned citizen John Anderson said his property in Nevada burned and he attributes the build up of fuels in the area because of the lack of cattle grazing in the area as the root of the problem. He said the letters to the forest service in Nevada that he has written have been ignored.
The next public lands meeting will be held on Oct. 9.