La Sal residents are concerned about impact of a new subdivision on local water wells

A new subdivision in La Sal has many residents worried about its potential impact on water availability in the area.

Legacy Fields, owned by Kelly Shumway, is situated off of East Markle in La Sal and has been subdivided for 114 lots, 18 of which have been approved by the San Juan County Planning and Zoning Commission.

La Sal has no municipal water and residents are dependent on either drilling their own wells or hauling water for household and livestock uses.

The lots in Legacy Fields will have drainage, easements, gravel roads, and electricity but are being sold as “dry,” which means potential buyers will have to provide their own water and septic systems.

Although there are several small subdivided neighborhoods in La Sal and Old La Sal, Legacy Fields is by far the largest in scale and density to date.

There are no guidelines currently in place that would require the developer to provide water and/or sewage services to potential buyers.

Some locals are concerned that existing homes near the new subdivision in La Sal may see their wells depleted if as many as 114 new wells are drilled.

Steve Deeter, a long-time resident of La Sal, lives adjacent to the new subdivision. He said, “The aquifer that feeds La Sal depends on the snow we get from the mountains, and we’ve been in a drought on and off for 20 years.

“If you put in 114 new wells, it’s going to suck a lot of water out of the ground, and with that many septic systems, at some point it’s going to find its way into the aquifer.”

Deeter also detailed the effects of the ongoing drought on local water supplies. He explained, “I have a neighbor whose well has dropped 60 feet in recent years.

“The well serving the Community Center and La Sal school has gone from producing 50 gallons per minute to 12. Kids don’t play softball because we can no longer irrigate the field.”

Kelly Green, whose home is just north of the new subdivision, is worried about the future viability of his own water well and the impact of numerous septic systems.

He says, “The problem is those who have nearby wells could be affected along with sewage contamination occurring if stricter guidelines are not put in place.”

Scott Burton, the Subdivision Administrator on the San Juan County Planning and Zoning Commission, responded to my inquiry about whether or not the potential impact on existing wells has been addressed in their approval process for Legacy Fields.

He explained, “Water availability has been discussed in Planning Commission meetings, but the Planning Commission has expressed the opinion that because the state approves all well permits, that it was out of their hands. The county does not oversee well permits.”

According to Marc Stilson, the regional Utah State Water Engineer, there have been no requests for water appropriations yet in Legacy Fields.

“When we receive an application, it is advertised in the local paper, which in this case would be the San Juan Record, for two weeks. There is a 20-day comment/protest period after the last advertising date.”

In response to concerns expressed by nearby homeowners, Kelly Green is gathering signatures to present to the Planning and Zoning Commission to ask them to consider creating a local ordinance requiring future subdivisions over a certain size to have water services in place.

He has gathered about 20 signatures so far, but is seeking additional support from La Sal residents. Interested residents of La Sal can find the petition and related details on the “La Sal for Sale Barter or Trade” Facebook page.

San Juan Record

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