Emery County Public Lands Council held its regular meeting in the commission chambers at the court house on Dec. 10 at 10 a.m. Council members present were Kirk Johansen, Craig Johansen, Dickson Huntington, Joe Fielder, Ray Petersen, Dennis Worwood and commissioners Ira Hatch and Drew Sitterud. Chairman Worwood called the meeting to order and asked for corrections to the minutes from the last meeting. Two members of the council made corrections to the minutes and the minutes were then approved.
Craig Johansen was the first subcommittee to report. He reported on water. He had been to a legislative subcommittee meeting of the national resource department and they were well received. They were given ample time to make their presentation and explain the issues they were facing. Johansen also stated there was a large contingent from San Juan, Grand and Carbon counties there to back up what they were expressing about the wild and scenic rivers designations. Johansen also reported that a letter had been sent to the governor concerning a memorandum of understanding and inviting him to meet with the WNRC department heads. This letter urged the governor to change the MOU, but since the sending of this letter, the meeting has been postponed and it is unknown when it will be rescheduled.
The second meeting Johansen attended was about the water fund struggle. He stated he had read an article in that morning's Salt Lake Tribune about the Water Resource Board meeting with the governor to try to get more funding through a sales tax increase. This would effect drinking water and agricultural water. The article stated Governor Leavitt wants one eighth of a cent increase to go to education. This would be about $20 million taken from the water users and the governor suggests the water people could recoup their money from other places. Johansen stated to recoup this amount, the water rates for every water user in the state would go up by $3-4 monthly.
Commissioner Hatch added that this would effect all water users in the state, not just culinary, but agricultural as well. He stated some road projects would also be downsized. Hatch said this is going to be a volatile issue and SITLA should let go of some funds for schools as that is what that program was established to do. Hatch also reported Emery and Carbon counties had received funds to investigate the problems at Electric Lake and to develop any source of water available there. The prospectus is out and the decision to hire a consultant is being reviewed.
Commissioner Sitterud reported on the wild and scenic rivers and added they have requested the board use an overview of the entire state, not just the county itself.
Commissioner Hatch then reported on the coalbed methane. He stated minerals lease funds for road district #1 is in a confused state at the moment. They are having problems with the computers along with some legal problems that are prohibiting anyone from finding out the exact figures for the revenue.
Johansen reported after having sat in on a CIB meeting, Uintah, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties are receiving the largest portion of mineral lease money. He then explained the process of distribution of those funds and the channels through which it must go in order to get into the county coffers. He stated that $10 million has just evaporated and no one seems to know where it has gone. Since these four counties get the biggest share, they are the ones who will lose the most. As it is, revenue to these counties is down 30 percent. He stated the purpose of that meeting was to establish better accountability of this money. The committee suggested changes in the permit process to include production figures on a monthly basis. A discussion followed as to the present permit process and whether this suggestion would be feasible. It was mentioned that some of the gas recovered in Emery County is piped to Carbon County where it is measured on meters and counted in that county.
Hatch suggested that everyone come together to find a solution to this problem.
Recreation was next to report. It was stated the plaque for the dinosaur quarry is ready for installation and also Commissioner Randy Johnson had requested a plaque for Swasey's Cabin public lands day project. It was moved, seconded and voted to recommend a plaque also be made for that area.
Heritage was next on the agenda, Kathleen Truman informed the council that the cowboy poetry book is finished and will be available at the Museum of the San Rafael for $16.
Ray Petersen from the access management team reported they are waiting on the RS-2477 decision.
Worwood explained the emergency closures of the Devil's Racetrack and Eva Conover roads by the BLM are tied up in court. Judge Kimball ruled the BLM had followed procedure in the closings, but the Tenth Circuit Court ruled that Judge Kimball had not gone far enough in his considerations. The court claimed that Kimball had not attempted to determine if the BLMs actions in the closings were the proper thing to have happened. This ruling is significant because it could potentially put the court system in a position to second-guess the BLM decisions and become land managers themselves.
Huntington, in charge of grazing, reported on the Quivira conference to be held in Moab on Dec. 13. He thanked the commission for sponsoring the permittees letter about the drought. The precipitation levels indicate a 30 percent cut in the grazing allotments for next year, but any action now would be premature. He suggested to wait and see what winter brings. He then encouraged all members of the council to go to the Quivira conference if possible. The Quivira conference in New Mexico is to be held in January.
Huntington also reported the elk count numbers are in, and there is some question as to the accuracy of those numbers. He stated they are proposing to the DWR that numbers of wildlife be reduced in the same proportions as the grazing numbers.
Worwood referred to a letter from the forest service outlining five alternatives to damage by the drought and urged all to wait until spring to decide on a course of action. He reported that Dixie, Fish Lake as well as the Manti-LaSal are being looked at for restrictions.
Huntington then referred to law suits that are now against the forest service that are concerned with grazing. Petersen mentioned that Ray Ward is an attorney to help farmers or permittees who have any problem with wilderness.
Joe Fielder, land exchange, reported the bill in the congress was not acted on last time, maybe this time it will get some action.
Louis Berg, Division of Wildlife Resources, was the first agency to report to the council. He stated the report he was giving was, in essence the same report he had given the Emery County Commissioners the previous week. There has been an increase in poaching activity and elk predation is on the rise. Berg reported the Big Horn Sheep Festival in Moab was successful. Also, the native trout populations have made good progress in the past five years. In particular, the Colorado Cutthroat have 14 populations that are 99 percent pure or better. He stated there is no set percentage of genetic purity that constitutes endangered classification. There are no rules and no set standard to make that judgment.
Berg then reported on the rotenone treatment of Duck Fork reservoir. All went well, but they do intend to retreat a few of the incoming streams. He also requested the council consider giving permission to the rotenone treatment of Ferron Reservoir while the water levels are so low and the dam is being repaired.
This treatment is required to eradicate the Brook trout, which overpopulate and out-compete more desireable species.
Wrigley Springs Reservoir was the next item Berg reported on. He stated the reservoir is full of weeds due to the nutrient content of the water. There is a need to fence off the springs feeding the reservoir to compensate for this over saturation of nutrients to the plant life in the reservoir. The pipeline feeding Mary's Lake is broken and needs attention. The DWR is continuing to look for water shares to enable the pipeline to be kept full.
Kirk Johansen questioned Berg about the reports of wolves being caught in the northern part of Utah. He asked if there were any reports of wolves in this area. Berg explained about the capture of a gray wolf in the northern end of Utah and it has been relocated to Yellowstone National Park. He told Johansen that he had never heard any reports of wolves in this area.
A private citizen at the meeting addressed Berg about the issue of beavers in Huntington Canyon that are creating problems in the Huntington-Cleveland drainage.
Floyd Johnson, from the BLM, reported next. He stated that he appreciates the input from Carbon and Emery counties about the wild and scenic river designations. There had been a lot of response in November and December.
At the present time, the BLM is reviewing all the input and are making an inventory of all the eligible rivers. It will be January or February before the list is complete. The next step in that process will be the general public comment phase and there are still six to eight months left in the process.
Johnson also said the BLM is in the process of reviewing the public comments about the travel plan and the projection is that a decision will be issued sometime early in 2003. They have applied to the Department of the Interior for an extension of the RMP and received an extension until September of 2004.
Worwood distributed copies of the master plan to all the council members and asked them to become very familiar with this plan as it is the guiding document for the council. Bryan Anderson explained the plan and how it works. Anderson stated that a MOU has been distributed to all the agencies with which the council works.
Worwood moved to the next agenda item, the terms of three councilmembers that will be expiring on Dec. 31. It was explained the current members who are leaving will serve until replacements are found. The process to fill these position needs to be started soon. It was moved and voted on to start the process of receiving applications for the positions to be vacated on Dec. 31.
Item five on the agenda was the scheduling of the meetings for the 2003 year. Discussion about staggering the meeting schedule and also holding some of the meetings in Green River.
The motion was made to have Petersen contact all the agencies that report to the council and survey how a change like that would effect the personnel who come to the meeting to make the reports.
It was then moved to hold the January meeting at the regular time and place.
The next agenda item was other business. Tory Killian from the Castle Country Rural Alliance reported to the council about the meeting held at the Museum of the San Rafael the previous Saturday.
She stated the meeting was productive and the group had come up with a lot of suggestions on how the public feels about management of the Swell.
She also said Sally Wisely, from the BLM will make recommendations and ask for the county's support.
Killian stated the Castle Country Rural Alliance will add their recommendations to what Wisely will propose.