Dry times ahead
At a time when spring runoff should be moving toward its peak, low levels and unusually high demand at the Grassy Trail Reservoir have East Carbon officials talking about restrictions for citizens and industry alike.
Area water use has been in the public eye for the past two weeks following a Sunnyside council session where employees questioned Sunnyside Cogeneration about increased culinary water usage at their plant.
Sunnyside's Mike Marquez claimed that plant water use is at an all-time high and has been heavy all through the winter of 2012 into the spring of 2013, exacerbating drought causing weather patterns.
Cogeneration employees at the meeting did say that they have increased well production to meet plant need, but also claimed that overall water usage at the plant has not increased. A claim that was challenged by Marquez even though he reads the meter that monitors flow into the plant.
Acting Maintenance Supervisor Burt Krauss approached the East Carbon council Tuesday night to provide a clear picture of the most recent water measurements for city authorities.
"The Division of Water Rights has come out and worked with us on figuring out the water flow coming into the reservoir and how it should be delegated," said Krauss. "As of right now we are taking in 860 gallons per minute and we are using 660 gallons per minute. That sounds okay, but the peak is supposed to be next month and we are already starting to taper down from there, it isn't going to last long. The situation isn't good."
The reservoir currently sits 80 inches below the lake's spillway with an intake of 2 cubic feet per second coming in.
According to Krauss, over a recent high-usage 19 day period the city of East Carbon used 4 million gallons and Sunnyside used 8 million gallons. Through some "rough figuring," the maintenance supervisor claimed that Sunnyside Cogeneration had used between 5.5 and 6 million gallons of Sunnyside's portion of treated, culinary water.
Hearing these figures, the council asked their attorney what their rights were concerning water usage amounts at the plant. The council contends that Cogeneration personnel have never come forward with this information despite city inquiries.
"I would like them to provide data that shows how much of our culinary water they have used over the last six month period and how much well water they have used," said council member Barbara Robinett. "We need to compare that with what East Carbon and Sunnyside residents are using. I think the citizens of the area deserve to know this."
While certain company details can be kept by the plant, city attorney Jeremy Humes did state that water usage numbers had to be reported to the Water Quality Board. He also commented that a GRAMA request could get the numbers of what is being used through Sunnyside city. GRAMA refers to the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act.
"Sunnyside is taking more than their share of water and they're selling beyond their water rights to the power plant. In essence that's our water they're selling and we don't get any of the money," exclaimed council member David Maggio. "They are receiving money from the power plant for water they don't own. If that's okay, I'm going to sell everyone here some land."
Concerning storage rights, East Carbon owns 50 percent of the reservoir, Sunnyside owns 40 percent and the power plant owns 10 percent. Flow rights dictate that the first five cubic feet per second that come into the reservoir be divided by four shares. East Carbon would get the first two, the plant gets half a share, Sunnyside gets one share and then East Carbon would receive the next one and a half, said city attorney Humes.
The concern for the mayor and council then is water restriction in a city that has fought for the past eight years to beautify their community.
"How do I place my residents on restriction before I look at restricting that power plant?" said LaFontaine. "I don't even know what the current agreement is. But I seem to remember that industry is asked to cut back their usage before the citizens are forced to."
As the city authorities move toward an impending merger vote with Sunnyside and planned meetings with the power plant, they requested that Humes contact Steve Snow of the law firm Clyde Snow and Session about representing the city concerning ongoing water issues.