$2 million project may bring water, power to Westwater area

The Utah State legislature is being asked to contribute to a development effort for the Westwater community west of Blanding.

The project could total $2 million, with the legislature asked to contribute $500,000. The contribution will be added to similar $500,000 contributions from the Navajo Nation, the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The hope is to drill a deep water well and to extend electrical power to the community.  

Commissioner Bruce Adams reported on events at the state legislature at the February 4 meeting of the San Juan County Commission.  Adams said that Representative Phil Lyman holds a “Yellowcake Caucus” each Thursday morning during the legislative season.

In other matters, Commissioners delayed a letter of support for a proposed campground and trail system at Goosenecks State Park.

County Planning Director Nick Sandberg discussed the proposed campground and mountain bike and hiking trail system.  

An original trail plan was expanded to connect Goosenecks with Mexican Hat. In addition, adding several hogans for the use of campers was also included.

Bluff business owner Amer Tumeh asked if Bluff-area businesses were included in the creation of the plan.  “It is hard enough to compete in business, but when you are competing with the government as a private enterprise, it is really tough,” said Tumeh.

Doug Allen said he is concerned that a county road will be closed and limit access to visitors. Blanding City Councilmember Cheryl Bowers asked that the county accept public comment from other local entities.

Commissioners toured the proposed site in the fall of 2019.

A signing is planned at Teec Nos Pos on February 24 of an agreement with the Navajo Nation Department of Transportation (NDOT) regarding road work on school bus routes. The event will include the Navajo Nation, San Juan County, Utah Navajo Commission and others.

The county is already managing several roads for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). A large number of roads will still be maintained by NDOT.

Commission Chairman Kenneth Maryboy said that he and the other Commissioners have worked with Chad Booth for a program on the County Seat about the roads issue. 

Commissioner Willie Grayeyes reported that he met with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez on January 29 to discuss the proposed route between Oljato and Navajo Mountain.  

Grayeyes said that the Navajo Nation will help with rights-of-way and other issues.  If the federal government does not participate in the road, Grayeyes said it could become a toll road. Grayeyes said that the project is “an uphill battle.”

Four subdivision plats were presented for approval in northern San Juan County, including the Legacy Fields subdivision in La Sal, and the Crimson Cliffs, San Juan Estates, and the Canyon Shadow subdivisions in Spanish Valley.

County Inspector Scott Burton said two of the projects are a result of the new water and sewer system that is being installed in Spanish Valley.

Commissioners approved a Community Services Block Grant, which provides approximately $20,000 a year for meals that are delivered to low income residents.

Commissioners also approved a request to purchase two “hot shot” vehicles for the Aging Department. The vehicles will be used to deliver food for the Meals on Wheels program.  The vehicles are customized for temperature control for food delivery.

The vehicles cost $94,000, with $51,260 paid through a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant.

Commissioners approved a change that allows local building code ordinances to be automatically updated when state building codes change.

Commissioner Bruce Adams asked the county to rescind a letter of support for a request by Allen Canyon residents to put a gate on a road leading into Allen Canyon from the US Forest Service. County Administrator Mack McDonald said that the letter had not yet been sent.

Commissioners renewed three contracts through the San Juan Public Health Department, including Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) investigations, counseling programs for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Parents as Teachers program.  

Department Director Kirk Benge said the Parents as Teachers program focuses on families with young children and pregnant mothers. The annual grant of $50,000 has increased to $175,000.  The funds need to be expended by July.  

The program started with the Family Spirit Model, which had success with Native American families. However, Utah changed to the Parents as Teachers Model in the past year.

The HIV program increases from $1,000 to $1,200 per year, while the STD program increases from $4,000 to $5,000.

Commissioners also renewed the San Juan County contract with the USU Extension program. The new contract will fund a 4H director position in San Juan County.

In public comment, Cheryl Bowers discussed the petition process regarding the tax reform bill. After more than 100,000 signatures were submitted, including hundreds from local residents, the bill was rescinded by the legislature and governor.

Bowers asked to verify the remaining signatures from San Juan County to show the local opposition to the bill.

The petition effort needed 583 local signatures. Bowers said the county had verified 442 signatures before they stopped counting.

Jackie Warren, of the Bluff Service Area, submitted a petition to dissolve the service area.  It would need to be approved by voters.

Warren said the Town of Bluff, which was incorporated in August, 2019, has assumed the responsibilities previously completed by the service area.

Amanda Podmore, of Bluff and also a contractor for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), is concerned that the BLM proposal for two wells near Bluff will have disproportionate effects on the quality of life in Bluff and adjacent communities.

Podmore said that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to account for the impact of the wells. She added that the BLM did not accurately analyze the impacts of fracking on the two wells.  This will be the first fracking on wells in the Bluff aquifer.

Podmore wants the BLM to wait until Bluff completes a 50-year water study, which will be released in several months.

Training on the Open and Public Meetings Act was presented by Deputy County Attorney Alex Goble.

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