Friction bubbles up over Summit water application

Tuesday , July 08, 2014 - 8:10 PM

ROY — The fight over water in Ogden Valley continues to simmer as state engineers mull over whether to grant Summit Mountain Holding Group’s exchange application to tap 400 acre feet for real estate development on Powder Mountain.

Following a four-hour hearing at Roy City offices Tuesday, John Mann, assistant state engineer with Utah’s Division of Water Rights, gave Summit’s water experts until Aug. 8 to respond to concerns voiced by several entities protesting the application.

Close to two dozen protestants from Weber and Cache counties will then have 30 days to answer Summit’s response, which will delay the division’s final decision until mid-September.

“I believe this 400 acre feet can be developed without any significant impact to water rights in the Powder Mountain vicinity or adjacent areas,” said hydrogeologist Bill Loughlin, who manages Park City-based Loughlin Water Associates.

Van King, also a hydrogeologist with Loughlin Water Associates, told state engineers that Summit’s mountaintop Hidden Lake Well will tap into deep bedrock underflow and have little effect on existing water rights in the Bear and Weber River basins. And new mapping from the Utah Geological Survey recently indicated a “thrust fault” that could block its impact on farmland and residents to the north in Cache Valley, King added.

To allay worries about declining water supplies in the West, Loughlin said that he saw no downward trend in Ogden Valley after examining U.S. Geological Survey data for four wells in the area between 1982 and 2013.

“It’s a very robust aquifer. Water levels go up and down in response to drought and other local things that might be going on,” Loughlin said.

But the Hidden Lake Well could impact Pizzel Springs, a principal source of drinking water for nearby Wolf Creek Resort in Eden, according to the Loughlin presentation. By doing so, it would reduce the resort’s reliance on those springs.

“I don’t see any impacts to surface water in Cache County. The recharge on the Weber County side is sufficient to supply the wells and the water right,” Loughlin said.

The exchange reduces 15 points of potential water diversion to seven from a previous developer’s application for the same 400 acre feet of water that the state approved in 2006.

Water experts speaking for some of the protestants disputed several claims put forward in the Loughlin presentation.

John Files, principal geohydrologist for Park City-based Cascade Water Resources, began by questioning whether Summit even had the right to drill the mountaintop Hidden Lake Well.

“What we found in our study is that this well is not actually drilled on an approved source, which is why we’re here today on this protest,” Files said.

Files also questioned whether the recently identified “thrust fault” would actually serve as a barrier to protect Cache County water supplies.

“There is definite evidence of a fault on the north side that could be interpreted in a couple of ways,” Files said. “It’s been my experience that any fault in carbonate rock or limestone doesn’t act as a barrier — it actually acts as a conduit. So I”m really not buying off on this new-found fault as being a boundary to groundwater movement to the north.”

Protestants included several individuals, Cache County Corporation, Ogden City Public Utilities, Pacificorp, Elkhorn LLC, the Bar B Ranch, Four Mile Ranch, Garden of Eden Ranch, Eden Water Works Company, Middle Fork Irrigation Company, Wolf Creek Irrigation Company, Wolf Creek Water and Sewer Improvement District, Green Hills Water & Sewer District, Pineview West Water Company, South Cache Water Users, Wellsville East Field Irrigation Company and the Wellsville Mendon Conservation District.

Kenton Moffett, Ogden City’s water utility manager, said the city’s wells would not be “made whole” by a corresponding release from Pineview Reservoir.

“That would be caused by the removal of water that might come down into the aquifer,” Moffett said. “So we have a concern with that, ongoing, because it’s something that happens quite a bit.”

Moffett also voiced concerns about the Hidden Lake Well’s draw on the bedrock underflow.

“We see this as a good project that we’d like to see happen, but we understand that it needs to be done responsibly,” Moffett said.

Speaking for Summit, Steven Clyde, vice president of the law firm of Clyde Snow and Sessions, described Files’s presentation as speculation. editorializing and opinions not based on fact.

“We have done a very thorough study,” Clyde said.

For more information about Summit’s exchange application and protests, go to http://waterrights.utah.gov/cgi-bin/docview.exe?Folder=35-12848.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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