The plant, proposed to be located on the Green River in Emery County, will lease up to 24,000 acre feet of water owned by the District for 60 years.
In exchange for the water, the conservancy district will receive $800,000 a year and, possibly more importantly, will be enabled to “prove up” on the water right.
In 1967, the San Juan Water Conservancy District was granted the right to develop 24,000 acre feet of water each year from the San Juan River for use in a proposed power generation plant.
Organizations generally have 50 years to develop a granted water right. If nothing is done within that timeframe, the water right could be revoked.
The proposed power plant never materialized on the San Juan River and it seemed unlikely that the water right could be developed before the 50 year window expires in 2017. However, the contract with Transition Power Development LLC will allow the district to secure the right.
Significant and continued growth in the lower Colorado River basin (Nevada, Arizona and California) is increasing the pressure for those holding water rights in other areas to “use it or lose it.”
It is estimated that the developmental phase for the power plant will last ten years. The Conservancy will be paid $80,000 a year for the leased water until the plant opens. At that time, the lease will pay $800,0000 a year for 60 years.
Officials explained that the diversion point for the water right will need to be changed from the San Juan River to the Green River. The contract provides $10,000 to help pay for the cost of changing the diversion point.
Transition Power Development LLC has also secured water rights from the Kane County Water Conservancy District. The Kane Water contract is for 30,000 acre feet of water rights. The district will receive $100,000 a year for five years, $500,000 a year until the plant becomes operational, and $1 million a year once the plant is operational.
San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams said that the contract will allow Kane County to pursue the development of a pipeline to carry water from Lake Powell to the fast growing areas in Kane and Washington counties.
Adams said that the Kane County plan is a great example of what the contract can do for the water conservancy district. “San Juan can prove up on a valuable water right and make a little money doing it,” said Adams. He added, “This will allow us to develop additional water rights.”
Commissioners hinted that the funds can be used for a number of purposes, including the proposed Clay Draw reservoir northwest of Monticello.
At the current time, the San Juan Water Conservancy District has approximately 45,000 acre feet of water rights that have been granted but not developed.
The contract with Transition Power Development is for 24,000 acre feet, while the Elk Meadows development north of Monticello has secured another 10,000 acre feet. The communities in Eastland and Bluff have secured small portions of the remaining granted water rights, leaving about 10,000 acre feet undesignated.
Commissioners report that the Conservancy has applied for a number of water rights that have not been granted. They said that the contract with Transition Power Development may result in the eventual granting of the outstanding applications.
The Conservancy District Board approved the contract at an emergency meeting of the board on November 29. Officials stated that quick action was needed on the contract to meet application deadlines of Transition Power Development.
San Juan County Clerk Norman Johnson, who also serves as chairman of the Water Conservancy Board, said that the group developing the nuclear power plant project were seeking to secure up to 60,000 acre feet of water from the conservency district.
When asked at the December 3 Commission meeting if the district gave away the ability of San Juan County to grow, Adams said, “It gives us money to develop additional water rights.... $50 million is not a giveaway.”