|UtahAmerican Energy representative Jay Marshall shows the location of the Lila Canyon road on the map at the public hearing.|
The Emery County Commission held a public hearing on the Lila Canyon Mine road. Commissioner Gary Kofford explained to audience members the need for this hearing. He said the road will lead to the mine site in Lila Canyon and there has been previous mining activity in that area. It is an established road still in place. Some cattleman use the road to run cows through the area. In 1997 UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. began to permit to develop the coal reserves in the Lila Canyon area. In 1999 they came before the Emery County planning and zoning and through the commission at that time.
A public hearing must be held anytime a coal mine is within 100 feet of public road. The public hearing is held to receive comments for the purpose of determining whether the interests of the public and affected landowners will be protected when UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. begins coal mining operations with 100 feet of the Emery County road #126 and during the construction of this road.
"In 1999, UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. agreed to pay for the improvements to the road," said Kofford. A similar road agreement is ongoing now with the Rilda Canyon Road in Huntington Canyon for Deer Creek Mine.
He said the permitting for Lila Canyon was protested by SUWA and SUWA is trying to hold it up again.
There has been some talk of a railhead at a later date where a conveyor belt would move the coal down to the railhead. But, for now when the mine becomes operational the coal will be trucked to Wellington. The road is 4.5 miles in length. The road is funded by UtahAmerican and the Emery County Special Service District #1 which is funded by mineral lease money, will commit a portion of funding. Kofford explained this is how many of the roads built in the county are funded without taxpayer dollars. Jay Marshall from UtahAmerican said the opening of the Lila Canyon mine will bring 230 direct jobs and the trickle down effect will include jobs for truck drivers and other related industry.
This area doesn't see a lot of traffic. The old road will be reclaimed as the BLM permit process only allows one road. Any private roads in the area will remain open.
The county will maintain the road unless a maintenance agreement is looked at, but none is in place at this time. The county will put in the fence along the road. The road will be graded, graveled and then asphalted. Everything done to date has been paid for by UtahAmerican Energy. The road will not be built until the company is ready, but Marshall said they are getting closer.
The nearest city to the mine is East Carbon. Workers for the mine are expected to come from throughout the Emery and Carbon county areas. The question was asked how deep the Lila Canyon mine will be. Marshall said its approximate depth is 2,500 feet.
Mack Huntington is the only original planning and zoning person from when the meetings were held the first time. At that time he said site visits were held and a very thorough application process was adhered to. The county and the applicant did everything according to procedure and he was surprised the matter was being revisited these eight years later.
County Attorney Dave Blackwell said the notice put out back then didn't include the statement about being within 100 feet of the county road. So that's why the public hearing is being held now.
Priscilla Burton representing the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining read the rule from the Division which states why the matter must be brought to a public hearing. She said it is primarily to protect the landowners and the public's interest.
Marshall said the area within 100 feet of the road will contain bathhouse parking and a settlement pond. Original concerns were the mining company would shut down the road, but Marshall said that is not an issue. Everyone involved must be treated fairly and this is one of the purposes for the public hearing. He also said the environmentalists thought there was an eagles nest in the area, but that hasn't materialized. The environmental group may still try to stop the road, but for now everything is ready and in place to go ahead. The county could begin on the road at any time.
The commission came out of public hearing after hearing no public comments. Kofford read one comment submitted by a phone call where someone was worried about the springs drying up from mining activity in the area. That is a dry area anyway. Those matters have been addressed in the mining plan and are unrelated to the road issue.
The commission determined they will make a written finding to the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining with the results of the public hearing on Sept. 4 and work completed in the past concerning the road project for Lila Canyon.