The state Division of Drinking Water has given the go-ahead to the Summit-Eden Powder Mountain developer to build a water tank and distribution lines for the first 154-home phase of its ambitious 6,277-acre project.
However, the larger vision spans 18 years of construction, with ultimate build-out including 500 ski-accessible homes and a village core with boutique hotels, lodges, condos, retail bays, eateries, educational centers and mini-conference sites.
"The overall long-term vision is 2,500 connections," said Bob Hart, a Division of Drinking Water engineer. "The question is, over the long term, where will they get the rest of the water to support the development?"
Minus a crystal ball, no one has a definitive answer. But Kenneth Bousfield, the division's director, said that one thing is certain: "The developers would have to do drilling and test pumping to find additional water -- and we wouldn't give approval until they have enough water."
Bousfield said they've been watching the project carefully. Summit has drilled two exploration wells so far, with the first site, lower on the mountain, yielding disappointing results. The second exploration well, drilled at the Hidden Lake parking area, revealed two aquifers -- one at 1,500 feet and the other at 2,200 feet, according to a July 17 letter from the division.
In late June, the Park City-based Loughlin Water Associates sent the division its opinion concerning water availability for Phase 1.
"We reviewed the yields, drawdowns, and field water quality data from the tests, and conclude that a single well completed in the upper aquifer at Exploration Well 2 will be capable of (1) supplying the 81-gpm peak day demand of Phase 1 and (2) being pump-tested at a minimum of 122 gpm (1.5 times the peak-day demand of 81 gpm) for at least 24 hours," the opinion said.
Hart said the division has issued approval for Summit to construct the well house, water tank and distribution system for Hidden Lake.
"Then they have to come back and get an operating permit to actually be able to use the system," Hart said, a step that won't happen until some time next year.
Russ Watts, Summit's development director, said they lease the mountain's 1,400 acre feet of water at a cost of $275,000 per year.
"For this first phase, we're only using 200 acre feet, but we have to pay for all of it because it's on our property," Watts said. So far Summit has invested close to $3.6 million in the well and water tank, which is currently under construction.
"We've got more than adequate water for phase one, and I'm confident we have enough for phase 2," said Watts, who has developed projects in Utah for 35 years.
Some residents have expressed concerns over increased water use on the mountain decreasing supplies to areas below. According to the division, that is another unknown.
"There could be an effect," Hart said, "but you don't know until it's put into service."
Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.