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Letter to the Editor: Water Rights

By RICHARD SNOWBALL President of Huntington Cleveland Irrigation Company

A recent headline article in the Sun Advocate discussed a meeting held May 15 at the Skyline Mine (Canyon Fuel) near Scofield. The meeting was called to discuss dewatering solutions concerning the large amounts of water intercepted in the southwest sections of the Skyline Mine. Some of this permit area is being mined and some will be mined in the future if dewatering can be accomplished.
At the meeting were the county commissioners of Emery, Carbon, and Sanpete counties. Also in attendance were representatives of Utah Power, Huntington Cleveland Irrigation Company (HCIC), state government and state agency people, the state engineer (water rights), and hydrologists for Canyon Fuel.
The Sun Advocate article discussed, in some detail, the amount of water intercepted (15 to 20 cfs), the age dating and chemical analysis of the water, and the problems and expense involved in pumping that much water out of the mine. A pumping project, possibly located in Flat Canyon to dewater the sandstone layers below the permit area, was also discussed. One idea is to pump part of this water to Sanpete County.
Left out of the article were concerns expressed by Utah Power, HCIC, and the State engineer.
Let me say that HCIC favors finding a fair and equable dewatering solution for the Skyline Mine. We realize that many jobs in this county depend on Canyon Fuel being able to continue mining their permit area. However, let me outline some of the concerns expressed at that meeting but left out of the Sun Advocate article.
1) All of the major mine water intercepts have been on the Huntington Creek drainage. HCIC feels that this is appropriated water belonging to the water rights of HCIC. At present much of this water is being pumped over to the portal and down Eccles Creek to Scofield Reservoir. The state allowed this discharge to Eccles Creek because previous state water classifications did not allow a discharge to Electric Lake and our drainage. Electric Lake has recently been reclassified and this water can now be discharged into the Huntington Creek drainage. It is the position of Huntington Cleveland Irrigation Co. that water intercepted on our drainage should be discharged to our drainage.
2) Since the intercepted water has been coming from an area below and slightly north of Electric Lake, Utah Power has concerns that the lake may be a source for at least part of this water. Indeed, inflow data for the lake is showing an unexplained deficit for the recent past. Utah Power’s people expressed this concern at the May meeting. HCIC feels that concerns for the integrity of Electric Lake need to be answered before any large pumping water redistribution project is undertaken on our drainage.
3) HCIC is also concerned that any pumping project on our drainage would be recharged with surface water from our water rights area. We do not favor pumping our recharge water to places outside our water rights area.
4) At the meeting the state engineer stated that he is always skeptical of claims of “new water.” He felt that further studies needed to be done to determine where this water originates. When asked about intercepted water, it was his opinion that the water belonged to the drainage in which it was intercepted. HCIC agrees.
We favor a reasonable mine dewatering project. Also, we concur with the three county commissions that further studies need to be done to determine the parameters of the Skyline Mine water. Along with the studies of size, shape, costs, water distribution, and large expectancy of any pumping or mine dewatering plan, we insist that water rights issues must be considered.

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