By Julie Johansen
With President Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears Monument in Southern Utah, the Public Lands Initiative is basically null and void. However, The Public Lands council is not just going to sit on their hands.
Preparation for this legislation has been ensuing since 1995 and there is no reason to stop now. It will require that the PLI become an Emery County Lands Use Plan. A motion was made, seconded, and approved by the Public Lands Committee to recommend to the Emery County Commission that they start the process to submit an Emery County Land Use Bill. Emery County is prepared to move forward individually and feel that they have the support of the Utah Congressional Delegation. Because of all the work that has been done on the PLI, they will not have to start from scratch on a Land Use Bill and plan to have the legislation ready for submission by the second quarter of the year.
Jake Palma from the BLM announced that Ahmed Mohsen, BLM Field Office Manager for Price, will be leaving the Price office and moving to Cedar City. This news was disturbing to the PLC as they have enjoyed working with him throughout various processes. Matt Blocker (Recreation Office) will also relocate to the state office in SLC and so the work on the Joes Valley Bouldering Project will be placed on hold for the time being. Palma also reported that work on the Deer Creek waterline has been stalled because of objections filed by Heal Utah and The Sierra Club, which must now be processed before construction can be finished.
Mark Stilson, engineer with the department of water rights explained pending legislation which would give municipalities in-stream flow water rights. At the present time, only two groups can change in-stream flow water diversions, fishing and wildlife groups. Discussion continued as to the necessity of maintaining all water rights in Emery County. Roger Barton from the NRCS also discussed the rights of mines to the water that submerges into a mine and then is expelled once the mine is closed. The council asked for more information on these issues to be forwarded the Emery County Public Lands Administrator, Ray Petersen. The importance of keeping records on stream and well flow by private entities, not just the mines, was also discussed.
Daren Olsen, Manti LaSal National Forests Ranger, reported that scoping has begun on the Horn Mountain sage brush habitat. The pinion and juniper growth seems to be encroaching on this sage grouse habitat. They also plan to do a prescribed burn on the north facings of Trail Mountain in the spring. Most of the forest service gates are open but trail gates on Horn Mountain will be closing this week.
Jonathan Hunt from state parks announced that they are grooming snowmobile trails on Thursday and Friday as there is more than three feet of snow. Also discussed was the 130 participants that have signed up for the ice-fishing tournament at Millsite on Saturday. He also reported six inches of ice on both Millsite and Huntington Reservoirs.
Council member Sherrel Ward reported that watershed is now at 141% of normal basin-wide with White River highest at 150% and Seeley Creek lowest at 127%. Council member Loren Huntsman answered the question, ”What is PacifiCorps’ projection?” by simply stating they plan to do whatever is necessary to operate the plants to the end of their useful life. They have to meet and deal with both regulations and public opinion.
At the next regular meeting, February 7, following the appointment of new council members by the commissioners, elections will be held.