The Emery County Public Lands Council met on Dec. 9 to discuss public lands issues facing the county and to hear agency reports. Bill Broadbear from the forest service reported on the fee demo program they have in place at Potters Pond and Willow Lake. This year they collected $14,000 in camping fees and spent $5,000 for the volunteers. Monies collected stay locally and are put back into the sites. Broadbear said they were also able to pay salaries out of appropriated funds which left more funds for the campgrounds themselves. He said they couldn't operate without the help of the volunteers.
Broadbear reported on the work done at Lake Canyon on the road to Millers Flat Reservoir. The work is 50 percent complete with some of the roads being redone and gravel laid down, some roads have been ripped out and barriers are in place. The forest service hopes the work will be complete by July 4, 2004.
Indian Creek Campground will undergo a renovation in 2004 with money coming from the regional office for improvements. The water system will be repaired and a rusty storage tank replaced. The campground will be configured to better accommodate group use which accounts for 90 percent of the usage at the campground.
In regards to the low water boat ramp at Joes Valley, the county will reapply for funding which was refused last year, but chances look better this year.
Broadbear requests input concerning the development of additional fee areas in Huntington Canyon. Currently there are 28 feeless sites and eight where fees are charged. Plans are being made for an additional seven sites with fees. The sites will included fire rings and better access. This would bring the feeless sites down to 21 and increase the fee assessed sites to 15. Many of these sites are just pull off places.
When the Lake Canyon area is complete they are considering fees in that area as well. The Lake Canyon project is 50 percent in Emery County and 50 percent in Sanpete County and $300,000 is being spent in the area. The forest service said that 60 percent of the visitors to that area are from the Wasatch Front and they help in maintaining the area with the use of fees. Currently this fee is at $3 per vehicle for overnight use. Daytime visitors to the area are not charged a fee.
Some council members thought the use of fees in the area will push people farther along the Millers Flat road and possibly creating new disturbances in other areas. Broadbear pointed out that with the improvements to the area they hope to set some capacities for use. The area is a management challenge for the forest service.
Craig Johansen from the water subcommittee began his water report with an update. He said that as of Dec. 9 Seely was 79 percent of average, Buckflat-116 percent, Red Pine, 100 percent, Mammoth/Cottonwood, 107 percent of average, White River, 126 percent and Muddy-118 percent.
Joes Valley is currently sitting at 32,052 acre feet of water, last year at this time is was sitting at 21,190. This extra 10,000 acre feet over last year belongs to Utah Power and is water they held over. The other 50 percent is project water. Water is being released from the reservoir at 22 second feet and this is for the power plant and drinking water.
Johansen informed everyone present about the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining meeting which is to be held in Castle Dale at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 16. Current local issues involving DOGM will be discussed. He also reported the wild and scenic river work with the forest service has been completed and two suitability reports have been compiled. "Ann King has been helpful and gracious and worked hard to bring the forest service and the county together. The BLM has gone underground and we don't know what they're doing. The process with the BLM has been totally different than with the forest service."
Ray Petersen, Emery County public lands direct said that he had read through the documents and recommended that they endorse them as Emery County's position.
Tory Killian reported on recreation saying she had met with the BLM on dispersed camping and can see where the BLM has viable concerns. They said they would like the lands council to list the dispersed camping sites that have been used before and are now closed and maybe they can open these back up to motorized travel. One area the BLM is currently reviewing is the Mussentuchit Flats area where Petersen said the sand dune had been left open for travel. Killian said that human waste appears to be a big issue in the area and this high use area is being considered for toilets.
Petersen suggested they and the BLM continue the field trips to look at sites. Killian also said she was going to meet with the forest service and see how they determine camping spots. Killian is also putting together a recreation subcommittee to study these issues.
Vernell Rowley suggested the Morris/Knudsen tunnels be examined for possible listing on the National Register to afford them protection from being destroyed. It was determined that Rowley bring more information about the listing process and the protection it affords to the next meeting.
Donna Sackett, representative from Sen. Bob Bennett's office informed the council there are currently 100 Heritage Bills in Congress at the present time but most are currently dead as Sen. Harry Reed has put a stop to them. Dennis Worwood, council chairman said he felt the window of opportunity had closed for now for a Heritage Bill and he thinks a local approach to heritage industry and heritage tourism can be developed.
Petersen pointed out in the BLM resource management plan that areas of critical or environmental concerns can be used for specific sites, such as the Morris/Knudsen tunnels and other such historic areas. The BLM is currently still working on the alternatives to the RMP. Johansen pointed out there is some identification of such historic sites on a map used previously for National Conservation Area legislation.
Floyd Johnson from the BLM reported that in the identification of each site such as for an AC/EC then documentation of the area's importance as well as photographs are used to substantiate why an area needs an added measure of protection. Johnson pointed out that listing on the national register could preclude development in that area and it was something to be considered.
The forest service said they had been involved in a similar project with the Stuarts Guard Station which was determined to qualify for special status and it was assessed by a cultural resource specialist and an architect.
Petersen said that Commissioner Gary Kofford had sent a letter to the BLM regarding a situation with a road that takes off of the Moore road. This road previously opened has been closed by a private land owner and the county is petitioning the BLM to open one of their roads which will take travelers to the same place as the other privately owned road. Kofford stressed the need in his letter for the situation to be resolved immediately, but Petersen said it didn't look like any action would take place until after the first of the year.
Petersen reported that the RS-2477 roads have come to a standstill. He will be attending meetings in Salt Lake concerning RS-2477 on Dec. 11. The new lieutenant governor, Gayle McKeachnie will be the contact on the issue and he is currently being brought up to speed on the issue before things can move forward. The 20 roads initially listed have not as yet been sent on to the Department of the Interior.
The access committee is still working to determine which county roads will be open to ATV travel and the next access meeting will be Dec. 11.
Dickson Huntington, grazing subcommittee informed the council about the permit buyout legislation currently being considered. Huntington thinks this is a ploy by environmental groups to buy AUMs and then retire them. The people sponsoring such buyouts are those involved in bringing the logging industry to a stop. Commissioner Drew Sitterud said that such buyouts are contrary to the Taylor Grazing Act. Permittees have a right to sale, but someone else can file on their claim. Huntington said he doesn't think buyouts in the local area would work because as many as 10 permittees might have to agree to such a sell because of the common allotments. The Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen's Association have spoken against such buyouts. A meeting will be held after the first of the year with local cattlemen to keep them abreast of the current attacks on grazing.
Johnson gave the BLM update detailing projects at the Cleveland/Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and the Temple Mountain area.
Mesia Nyman, district ranger from the forest service told of a visit last week to the East Fork of Box Canyon where an archaeological dig has collapsed and the flow from the east side of the creek has been erratic, she attributed the decreased flow to cracked aquifers and undermining in the area. She said they don't know yet what the creek will do but they are monitoring the situation.
Nyman reported that they will speak at the DOGM meeting and update them on the placement of measurement flumes on the tributaries coming into Electric Lake. They will also discuss the proposal for mining facilities in Rilda Canyon and possible environmental concerns where Energy West wishes to divert the creek into a culvert for the length of 1,200 feet.
Nyman said there will be a public meeting to gather input on the watershed analysis probably sometime in January. Next public lands meeting on Jan.13.