The Emery County Public Lands Council met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. Those present were Craig Johansen, Kirk Johansen, Wes Curtis, Vernell Rowley, Dickson Huntington, Tom Roush and Commissioners Ira Hatch and Drew Sitterud. Craig Johansen conducted the meeting for Chairman Dennis Worwood who was out of town.
The meeting began with the approval of the previous meeting minutes. The subcommittee reports were next with the water report being given by Craig Johansen. He said there still isn't any water. Joes Valley Reservoir still has 1,500 acre feet of water allotted to Cottonwood Creek Irrigation Company, 2,000 for Huntington/Cleveland and Utah Power, 8,000; for a total of 11,800 yet to be drawn. Utah Power can draw their allotment any time between now and next April. Approximately 26,000 acre feet will be left in the reservoir. We began last year with 48,000 so we will be short 12,000. In the dead pool, 7,800 must be left, if it is another dry winter, then there will probably only be enough left to drink. Utah Power also has 5,600 acre feet carry over in the Millsite Reservoir and none left in Electric Lake. The irrigation season ends on Nov. 1 and the only ones allowed to carry water over are industries and municipalities.
Commissioner Hatch spoke about a meeting he and Commissioner Sitterud and Jay Mark Humphrey for the water district had been to with Skyline Mine and representatives from Sanpete and Carbon counties. He said they are putting together a proposal to bring before the Community Impact Board for funding for a feasibility study on the water situation. Currently Skyline is still pumping the water full bore with the water within the mine being pumped out the mine portal and into Eccles Creek and down into Scofield Reservoir. The water in the well outside the mine workings in James Canyon is being pumped into Electric Lake. They will be mining in the future to the north in the Winter Quarters tract at least until the resolution of the disposal of the water.
A discussion took place regarding the lowering of the water coming out of the right fork of Electric Lake from 12 second feet to six second feet. It was mentioned that fish monitoring would take place before and after this reduction. Commissioner Hatch said stream flows were determined by the minimum amount of water needed to maintain the brown trout population in the river. The flow on Oct. 1 is to be sustained throughout the winter. This protects the spawn of the brown trout.
It was pointed out that even if a shaft was drilled the mine water could not be discharged into Electric Lake. The idea of inviting all parties involved in the Skyline water issue to the next public lands meeting was discussed and approved.
The coal bed methane report was next on the agenda. Bryant Anderson said they are drilling around the pageant site. He also said the gas companies have determined that the wells in the Huntington vicinity produce more and as they have moved south the wells are of a poorer quality. Commissioner Hatch reported that he went on the field trip with the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining board and the gas companies said they were not expanding at this point any farther south and were concentrating in the Huntington drainage. John Healy from the forest service reported that they have received four proposals for wells on forest service land and the Castle Valley ridge was in analysis at this time. Anderson also pointed out that some of the companies are still looking at horizontal mining which reduces impacts and pad size.
Roush from the recreation subcommittee reported that plans are going full bore for public lands day which will be held on Sept. 28 beginning at 9 a.m. at Swasey's Cabin. The Bureau of Land Management has been doing a lot of work getting the materials ready for the fencing project. Scouts from Carbon County are expected to come and help with the project.
The heritage subcommittee report was given by Curtis. He said that Congress is in recess until Sept. 4 so we'll have to wait until they reconvene for more information on the heritage bill. He also mentioned a letter three wilderness friendly congressman had sent to the President regarding the monument. Curtis reported receiving a phone call from a Tribune reporter asking if there was unrestricted OHV use in the monument plan? Curtis told her there isn't a plan and that OHV use was allowable on designated roads and trails. Curtis emphasized how this situation illustrated how the enviro movement controls and manipulates the media, feeding the reporter false information about OHV use. The enviros view the OHV as a monster that needs to be killed. "If we don't take the initiative to take and shape the San Rafael there are others out there who are anxious to do that for us," said Curtis. It was also mentioned that talk was circulating that the environmentalists might propose their own monument bill to Congress.
The grazing subcommittee report was next with Huntington reporting that he had met with Roger Barton from the soil conservation district and they want the public lands council to cosponsor the Quivira Grazing Conference which will be held in Moab or Price. He said he will be attending a meeting in Price where they will put it together and the exact location will be announced.
John Healy from the forest service said they have asked some allotments to come off next week on Horn and East Mountain. He said Trail was asked to come off a week ago.
Tom Rasmussen from the BLM said they are looking at allotments on a one by one basis to determine if there is enough feed for cows. Healy said if next year is dry then the cows may not be able to go out at all. "It looks pretty bleak unless there is a turnaround this winter, even so the plants need recovery time."
Clyde Magnuson, president of a local cattlemen's association said, "It is tough work to bring the cows down now. They have an instinct to come down in the fall when it starts to get cold and it's tough to try to bring them down now."
Kirk Johansen said that any rain at all would help to rejuvenate the grasses.
The land exchange was discussed next, the bill has been pulled to discuss the valuations and reconsider issues. Their (Congress) difficulty has been over how the valuations for the lands to be exchanged were arrived at. SITLA wants the bill to go forward as is and hopes to educate those opposed, to the process that was utilized for the valuations. No formal appraisal process was done because the cost and time frame for such a process was prohibitive, which defeats the purpose. Parties involved bring the information to the table of the valuations of the land and it is reviewed by independent companies. The exchange is broken into parts, but the total package is of equal value. Cannon is sponsoring the bill in Congress. It was mentioned that maps and an explanation of the exchange is available at trustlands.com. The representative from SITLA said it is their goal to have $1 billion in the trustlands fund by 2010 for the school children of Utah. The principle on the fund is not touched. The interest is pulled off and goes straight into the state education budget. Schools are also now making some decisions as to how that money is spent. Each individual school in the state receives a portion of trustland money according to school population to use for an educational program at their school.
The forest service update was next with Healy saying the fires on Horn and Nelson mountains have had a positive impact. Their main concern is now that these areas have been cleared they might have ATVs accessing the burned areas. Willow Lake campground is now collecting fees and the forest service has had positive feedback about the improvements to the campground. Discussion of the positioning of a low water boat ramp at Joes Valley was looked at. The best site seems to be south of the Sportsman's Lodge, below the CCC trail. "It has the best slope," said Healy. Commissioner Hatch said this is where the old road used to go. Healy said they are still evaluating sites. They also need to determine if the ramp would also be available for high water use. The Division of Wildlife Resources has money to help fund the boat ramp. The water at Duck Fork reservoir is being drawn down to facilitate the rotenone treatment which is coming up in September. Anglers report successful fishing.
Healy reported that with the drought springs on the mountain have decreased and some have disappeared entirely. "We are working on the roads analysis. An upgrade for Skyline Drive is being looked at and the issues that effect the people in the communities concerning any upgrades." Healy went on to explain that 70 questions have to be answered for each of the roads being analyzed. He said that the Skyline road is still on the Sanpete upgrade list. The old Ferron Dugway trail is currently closed for now, a viable trail is not ready yet and watershed analysis must be done and evaluated to see where the trail should go. Healy said they meet with the Emery County Road Department each spring and work things out so they know what roads are being worked on. They could also meet with people on the trails so they could know what is being worked on, also.
Curtis commented that it would be good for the access management subcommittee of the public lands council to meet with the forest service. Healy said it will be important to do that as the trails develop. "The forest service is spending $2 million a day on fires and is well above the money allocated for fighting fire. The new Ferron District Ranger will be Mesia Nycum, she is currently at the Bridger-Teton forest in Afton, Wyo. Her starting date is Aug. 26.
"We really appreciate the working relationship that we have had with Val Payne and the public lands council. We appreciate the relationship he built with the forest service and the public lands council," said Healy.
Curtis said that his office has been approached to form a partnership in helping with the socio-economic connections with the communities and the forest in regards to the Manti-LaSal forest plan revision. These studies in the past haven't given an accurate picture of the impacts in the communities and Curtis hopes with their involvement and the involvement of communities it will help to get the information flow going and be better than it has been in the past. These plans will include a look at users and groups and how forest service decisions might effect them.
Tom Rasmussen was next with the BLM update, he said that Patrick Gubbins has been selected as the new Price Field Office manager. "He is coming from South Dakota and is a good selection," said Rasmussen.
Floyd Johnson from the BLM said their minerals report is being finalized and will be posted on the BLM website. Coal reserves are still being worked on. Information on energy and minerals as they relate to other activities will be shown and maps which show the distribution of the minerals and the potential for development. There are also baseline reports involving air quality.
Gary Armstrong from, Booz, Allen and Hamilton was next with a discussion of the process to be followed in discussion of and information gathering in regards to the San Rafael Swell monument idea. The BLM has contracted with his company. He outlined a technical workshop, scientific symposium and resource inventory as part of the process. He said the technical workshop will take place on Aug. 28 at the College of Eastern Utah Museum. "Experts on resources such as geologists, paleontologists, ranching, uranium mining, ecology and plants will be discussed. The half-day workshop will bring knowledgeable people together to see what's out there," said Armstrong.
On Sept. 19-20 the scientific symposium will be held in Castle Dale at the high school. Armstrong said they hope to involve the students and there will be formal presentations and local attendance is encouraged. The resource inventory report will go to the president. This report might also include copies of published works and guide books of the area. He said they are calling on local people who are knowledgeable to help serve as speakers and guides for the workshop, symposium and onsite field trips to the Swell.
Former Price field officer manager Dick Manus will help with the site tours to the Swell. Armstrong also said that some self-guided tours will be available on the website.
The public meetings portion of the process will take place between Sept. 30- Oct. 4. Meetings will be held in Castle Dale, Price, Green River and Salt Lake. Also a quantitative study is being conducted by Dr. Keith Allred, from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. The survey can be taken on the website and will also be sent to a random sampling of county residents as well as others. The report will hold a chapter on each of the related subjects. Each chapter will be 8-10 pages and contain discussion of the selected sites on the Swell. Armstrong asked the lands council members present to give their ideas on suggestions for guides and presenters.
Commissioner Hatch said that it was important to get back as much information as possible before the November election when the initiative will be put on the ballot. Armstrong said the BLM website is: ut.blm.gov/ and go to the San Rafael link.
Curtis asked Roush to coordinate with the school district on the September symposium. He accepted the request. Craig Johansen said they appreciate the good relationship they have enjoyed with Dick Manus and Tom Rasmussen from the BLM. He said the initial reaction to Dick's replacement is positive. "This is not an easy time nor easy issues, we need a player who is willing to listen," he said.
The next public lands meeting will be held Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.