BLM, Ranchers Favor Sunnyside Water Line Replacement Proposal
Water infrastructure stands to benefit from a proposed agreement in Sunnyside that would replace a nonfunctional water line in the north area of the city.
On May 2, the city council in Sunnyside was approached by a representative of the Price field office of the United States Bureau of Land Management and local cattle rancher Allen Staker.
Derek Olsen, the BLM representative, explained that local officials are exploring options that may reduce the strain on grazing land by providing more water to areas that are presently dry.
This may encourage cattle to stray farther from water sources and better distribute the impact that cattle ranching creates.
Olsen explained that ranchers such as Staker are reliant on grazing leases from the BLM.
During the earlier part of the year, ranchers use land located at lower elevations. Later in the year, as water dries up, ranchers move their livestock to higher regions which may have more streams and provide more water and vegetation later in the year.
Olsen and Staker specifically addressed the use of grazing lands just north of Sunnyside near the East Carbon golf course.
The city owns a water line extending from East Carbon High School which used to provide water to the area.
However, several years ago, the line developed problems and the city chose to turn the line off.
The water line, which is approximately one mile in length, could be used to provide water to cattle which graze on the land in the late spring and early summer.
Olsen explained that if water was available, the BLM could look at other uses of the land, ranging from other grazing opportunities throughout the year to recreational activities.
Staker approached the council about the line last year and was told that until the line is replaced, the city will not provide water to the area.
The cattle rancher opted to purchase water from the city, which he hauls to the cattle on a daily basis.
Currently, Staker is hauling an estimated 4,500 gallons of water every other day. He anticipated that to increase in late May or June to 4,500 gallons every day.
The proposal laid on the table is that the BLM would install a water line using equipment that could place the line up to four feet below the surface.
That specification is likely to meet the recommendation made by East Carbon councilmember Michael Marquez that the line be placed below the frost line.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is where to place the meter in the new line if it is installed.
The meter currently in the nonfunctional line is at the end of the line, away from the high school.
The council explained that there are two options on placement. If the BLM and ranchers want the meter left in the current location, the city will require that the line be installed to its specifications and that the city takes ownership of the line upon completion
The other option is to place the meter closer to the high school, in which case the city would take ownership of the line until the meter and allow the BLM or others to take ownership of the line beyond the meter.
If the BLM and ranchers decide to go with this option, the line would not need to be installed to the city's specifications. However, the city would not be responsible for line maintenance beyond the meter point.
The council also indicated that if the meter was placed closer to the school, the city could take ownership of the line until a specified point beyond the meter as long as the line was installed to the city's specifications.
In the case that the city takes ownership of the line, Sunnyside will be required to provide maintenance to the line in the event that it breaks or has other problems.
The owner of the line could benefit in the long run as far as maintenance of the line is concerned if the proposal becomes a reality. Olsen explained that the line would be made of a flexible material that would expand if water was to get frozen in it over the winter. The material would also withstand limited shifts in the ground.
The capabilities of the line should reduce the need for maintenance in the long run and result in savings to the owner.
One of the questions that was not addressed relates to who will pay for the line. Sunnyside has already stated that it is financially disadvantaged and has taken steps to reduce expenditures over the recent months. Paying for installation may be outside the city's capability.
Olsen explained that if the BLM needed to pay for the project, he would need to bring up the cost with his supervisors. If BLM officials decide not to pay for the line, the proposal may never be approved.
That would mean that Staker and other ranchers who use the land would be required to rely on the limited water supply in the area and haul the remainder.
Staker said that he would like to see the amount of water in the area increase. He explained that the 4,500 gallons he is hauling now is a bare minimum, he would prefer to be able to provide as much as 6,000 gallons per day to the area, an amount he believes is more in line with what cattle will consume in the late summer.
No decision was made regarding the matter, though the council did have a full voting majority.
Mayor Bruce Andrews was absent from the meeting and councilmembers recognized that he may be able to provide insight on the current line and may have additional requirements that need to be met before the city will provide water. The members of council who were present were favorable to the proposal, they opted to wait for other elected officials to weigh in on the issue before the council makes a decision.