Bill may use water rights to develop on reservation
by Anna Thayn
Feb 15, 2012 | 4852 views | 0 0 comments | 92 92 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Culinary water for San Juan County’s Navajo residents on the reservation is on the minds of the San Juan County Commission and the Utah State Legislature during this legislative session.

Commissioner Bruce Adams reported that he had testified before a legislative committee last week on the need for culinary water on the reservation using the Navajo water right from the San Juan River. 

Adams said that there has been a precedent set in Montana using Indian water rights to supply culinary water to residents on the reservation. According to the precedent, if the state puts of five percent of the money for the project, the Federal Government is obligated to fund 95 percent of the project.

The state is considering a $154 million project to supply water to Monument Valley using a 24-inch water line that would run from Mexican Hat to Monument Valley.  The water would be treated in Mexican Hat and then distributed using lift stations and storage tanks.

Adams reports that the committee unanimously approved the project. There will also be two or three additional projects in the future to supply treated culinary water to other areas of the reservation.

According to Adams, the next step is to ask the Utah State Legislature to set aside $2 million dollars a year for four years to come up with their portion of the funding in order to pressure the Federal Government to fund the remainder of the project.

County resident Monte Wells approached the Commission regarding a road in the Indian Creek area that has been closed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Wells reports he has found no evidence that the BLM went through the proper channels or process to close the road, which is listed in the BLM travel plan as open.  According to Wells, the entrance was dug up with a backhoe. 

Commissioners expressed serious concern. Commissioner Bruce Adams said, “The County needs to make a strong statement at this point about an illegal road closure. An absolute and strong statement.”  

There was concern from the public regarding a $35,000 fine that the BLM has imposed on county residents for doing unauthorized trail work, and whether the BLM has to follow protocol or if they can be prosecuted under the same laws.  The county will research the issue and submit a Freedom of Information Act request to the BLM.

The commission approved a$34,689 bid from Ridge Rock Inc. for maintenance on the Bluff Airport.  Four bids were received on the project, with a high bid at $53,170.  The original engineers estimate is $32,270. 

County Administrator Rick Bailey reported that 90 percent of the project would be paid by a grant from the State of Utah Aeronautics.  The county will pay $3,200 on the project and the engineering fees.

Bailey presented the Commission with a purchase request for a SCB fill station for the Bluff Fire Department. A Homeland Security Grant reimburses the $44,380 cost in full. The equipment is used to fill the breathing apparatus bottles used by the firefighters.  The Commission approved the request. 

Also approved was $50,000 to purchase a trailer that holds 250 gallons of foam for fighting oil and battery fires. A Community Impact Board grant paid for the trailer.

 In other business, the commission approved a building permit on Bridger Jack Mesa. Also approved was $5,355 to purchase a training and management system for the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office.

Commissioner Phil Lyman said that it’s “great to see a proactive approach... This has the potential to pay huge dividends in terms of actually following through on keeping the county out of major liability, so I think it’s money well spent.”

The commission also granted a surplus vehicle from the Sheriff’s office to San Juan Counseling.
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