During the recent Emery County Public Lands Council meeting, Lucy Malin, of the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, reported to the council concerning the progress in the Rilda Canyon expansion by the Deer Creek Mine. PacifiCorp, the parent company, has filed a new plan for the expansion work being considered for the mine.
The first plan from PacifiCorp was discarded over concerns surrounding the impact the construction of the new site in Rilda Canyon would have on the creek and the springs. This new plan has implemented moving the collection area for the springs owned by North Emery Water Users Special Service District.
Doug Johnson, of PacifiCorp, stated that in a recent meeting with NEWUSSD, the board made the suggestion to relocate the collection area for the springs to a point above the new construction. If this plan is implemented, it would eliminate the concerns over contamination or damage to the springs.
Johnson stated that in the new plan, PacifiCorp has addressed every possible event surrounding the springs and the creek. He reported that the quality and quantity of the water collected and delivered in this area will remain the same.
If the Rilda Canyon expansion takes place, an additional 15 years of mining would be available to the Deer Creek Mine. Following the permitting and appeals process, expansion could begin as early as summer of 2005.
All of the agencies involved, DOGM, the office of surface mining, the forest service and the BLM, are working together to complete the process as rapidly as possible. The new plan is being looked at as a very possible solution to the problem with the springs. By moving the construction area to the west approximately one half mile, and with the relocation of the collection area for the springs, the new plan is very promising.
Following the mining activity surrounding the expansion, the reclamation of the area would include removing all buildings, removal of the paved road and restoration and reseeding of the entire area. Maylin said that the agencies involved do not anticipate finding a significant impact on any aspects of the environmental assessment. If a significant impact is noted, one additional year could be added to the project start time, to write an environmental impact statement.
As for the Lila Canyon expansion, it is also moving through the permitting process. Utah American Energy requested this expansion from Horse Canyon Mine. On July 30, Lowell Braxton issued a statement to UAE. Due to the comments that were submitted following Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance's conference on Lila Canyon, Braxton encouraged UAE to respond to SUWAs issues. There will be a review in the process in the near future.
Public Lands Director Ray Petersen stated that he and Commissioner Ira Hatch had attended that conference and the bulk of the issues surrounded water use in the area. He also stated that Emery County had written a letter of support for the Lila Canyon expansion project.
Floyd Johnson, of the BLM, stated that the RMP draft has been released and is now in the comment phase of the process. This comment period will last 90 days and the deadline for comment is Oct. 15. He encouraged everyone, as a council and as a private party, to make written comments and submit to the BLM.
There are four informational meetings scheduled for the public. Each will be from 4-9 p.m. and the dates are Aug. 24 at the Museum of the San Rafael in Castle Dale, Aug. 25 at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Aug. 26. in Price and Aug. 31 in Salt Lake City. No oral comments will be accepted at these meeting, but written comments will be accepted.
Petersen requested that the public lands council members review and formulate responses appropriate to their council position area. "I don't think there are any surprises in the draft, but there are definitely some issues that we, as a council, need to address," said Petersen.
Carl Gramlich of the Division of Wildlife Resources informed the council that he would be giving the DWR update as Derris Jones is in Range Creek with Gov. Olene Walker. The governor is touring the acquisition. Other legislative members will be touring Range Creek in the coming weeks. Thirteen Native American tribes representatives will also be taking a tour of the area near the end of August.
Gramlich explained some problems the county is having with bears recently. Most are in the Desolation Canyon area as many rafters are reporting bear sightings. Some problems have presented themselves in the form of bears getting into the melon fields in Green River also.
Gramlich said that in regard to bears, the Division has a rating system by which the bears are classified. A Category 1 bear is an animal that has done minimal damage and seldom is seen. A Category 2 bear is one that demonstrates continual, unacceptable behavior. A Category 3 bear is a chronic offender that has become a public safety threat. Recently a Category 3 bear was reported, but an extensive search did not locate the animal.
An interim plan for the management of Range Creek is hoped to be in place by Aug. 13. The investigation into the missing artifacts from that area is ongoing. Gramlich also reported there are a number of hunting permits available from the draw. Several areas of the state did not have enough applications to cover the number of permits available. Most of the permits are for the northern region and also archery.
The next Emery County Public Lands Council meeting will be held Sept. 14 at 10 a.m.