Joe’s Valley Reservoir: The Jewel of Emery County

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By Julie Johansen

Joe’s Valley Reservoir is the lifeline for Emery County, making it possible for water companies to continue to distribute and serve water users throughout the county. During this past year as construction continued on Millsite Dam, some of PacifiCorp’s Hunter Plant water has come from Joe’s Valley, and it goes north as well.

How would you like to pay off the mortgage on your home and not be able to receive the title for it? This was the analogy Jay Mark Humphrey, Emery Water Conservancy District Manager, used to explain the problem the district is facing in trying to receive ownership of the Joe’s Valley Dam during the Emery County Public Lands meeting on Tuesday. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) received funds for the dam in 2016, actually four years early, but without an act of congress, Emery County cannot receive ownership for it. Congressman John Curtis had agreed to sponsor a bill to help obtain the title but has stated he cannot do this until everyone is appeased. The BOR supports this action but is making it very difficult to accomplish, it was explained at the meeting. In the meantime, maintenance, liability or even replacement of the 50-year-old dam falls on the district, in other words water users, in Emery County. There have been issues with the spillway, which have been corrected, but it’s inevitable to need more maintenance. How is this done without a title to the dam? The district is in the process of filling the requirements to meet the standards required to get the title to the dam, but it is long and complicated process.

Next up, Mark Stilson, Utah State Water Engineer, reported to the council on pending legislation that could affect rural water users. Four of these proposed bills include amendments to the instream water flow, water supply and surplus water leasing for municipalities, secondary water metering and joint water leasing in Utah through a water bank. The water leasing for municipalities in Utah is already happening illegally and this amendment would make it legal. Secondary water metering would mean that all new secondary hookups would have to install a meter and, by 2030, all existing systems would need a meter as well.

Larry Johansen from Utah State Parks announced that Jonathan Hunt has accepted another position out of the area, so Johansen will be serving as the acting director until that position is filled. He stated that trail grooming had begun this week and will continue until the trails are groomed. This is much earlier than last year, as the area has received more snow this year. It was reported that as of Jan. 8, the snow is 115% of normal.

Land Use Chairman Rod Player introduced a new council member, Les Wilberg, and welcomed back reinstated members Lorin Huntsman and J.R. Nelson. He also mentioned he had hoped for a celebratory meeting announcing the passage of the Emery County Lands Bill, but disappointingly not so. Senator Mike Lee had stopped the passage of the bill previously, but with the new congress, a phone call from Lee’s office had assured the commissioners that this would not happen again. There are over 100 bills included in the package and six of those are from Utah. The land bill should go forward with the final submission from Emery County. This includes more acreage in wilderness from the southern tip of the county, Candland Mountain being withdrawn, SITLA land trades included and an advisory board of seven members with four local members on the board.

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