BOR Letter Addresses High Water Level at Scofield Reservoir
The controversy regarding the Gooseberry Reservoir appears not to be the only issue putting Carbon County on opposite ground from the United States Bureau of Reclamation.
Two issues in the Scofield area have generated a letter to the Carbon County Commission from BOR area manager Bruce Barrett.
The issues involve land around Scofield dealing with property lines and the high water mark for the reservoir.
In the last year, the county has made a concerted attempt to work out problems with property lines in the Bolotas subdivision on the east side of the lake.
Last week, the county commission agreed to a plan taking property lines related to structures on the ground and approve the boundaries as long as involved property owners agreed to the compromise.
But the county was not sure which corner marker to use to permanently establish the property lines - one put in years ago or one placed last year by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at BOR's request. The latest marker is about eight feet west of the original one.
Local officials indicate that the county has been trying to obtain information on the new placement for the last year, but numerous requests have seemingly been ignored by the BOR.
However, the letter claims BOR knew nothing about the request until federal officials read an article about a county planning and zoning meeting in the Sun Advocate in early September.
"The article stated that the first part of (the) discussion referenced a cadastral survey conducted by the BLM at the request of the BOR," stated Barrett in the letter. "The final plats for that survey are not yet approved; however, we have enclosed a preliminary copy that was provided... on Sept. 16, 2003."
"The survey data for the section corners has been available by request from the BLM for over a year and we have conveyed that to Mr. (Mike) Milovich, Mr. (Dave) Levanger and Mr. (Evan) Hansen on several occasions," continued the letter. "We request that you direct the county surveyor (Hansen) and subsequent private surveyors to use the datum set by the BLM for the section corners in order to avoid future property conflicts with United States lands."
But local officials maintain that the county never received the information despite at least two requests to the federal agency.
"We asked for it and they never would give it to us until now," pointed out Commissioner Milovich on Wednesday.
Other officials concurred with the assessment after the letter appeared on the county's doorstep last week.
"They didn't do anything about it until they saw the article in the paper," said Commissioner Bill Krompel. "We contacted them at least two times that I am definitely aware of. I wrote them a letter requesting the information once and, later, I gave them a call, while Dave (Levanger) was in my office one day and asked for it."
But while most of the lack of information on the survey corner was resolved with the preliminary plats that came with the letter, another stewing issue has bubbled to the top.
"We are concerned with the proposed (Bolotas) settlement addressing the questions whether or not private property extends into Scofield Reservoir and where the boundary lies between private property and United States lands," stated the BOR correspondence.
The letter asks the county to use the BLM's survey to solve the matter because BOR was "mandated by Congress to not allow private and exclusive use of United States lands."
It appears the dispute comes from a discrepancy about what the high water mark at Scofield officially is.
A high water level of 7,620 feet had been accepted by parties involved for years. However, the BOR letter does not adhere to the generally accepted level for the lake.
"A property right for flood easement on these lands allows storage of water to the original surveyed elevation of 7,630 feet," stated Barrett. "During construction of Scofield Dam, it was learned that this elevation is actually 7,634.5 based on USGS information.
The letter indicates that the highest the level reached at the lake was 7621.9 feet in 1983, which "is nearly two feet higher than the elevation you (the county) set by your resolution."
The letter points out that the county "does not have the right or authority to dictate the operation and subsequent water elevations at Scofield."
And if the county's actions are to set an "arbitrary elevation to be used in the conveyance of property," then "the actual maximum water elevation will have serious impacts on the flood easement of the United States," indicated the correspondence.
The issue was also discussed during the part of the commission meeting last week. Various levels were evaluated, but as Levanger put it at the end of the discussion: "... if the mark is at the higher level ,we are going to be left to the mercy of the federal government."