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East Carbon residents lobby to reopen Grassy Trail reservoir for public access

Sun Advocate reporter

The residents of East Carbon filled the council chambers Tuesday night to address city officials regarding reopening Grassy Trail reservoir to the public.

The reservoir has been closed since 1998 after being opened to the public for two years, according to East Carbon City officials.

The council reported that Grassy Trail was closed due to two reasons.

The first factor leading to the reservoir's closure involved the excessive waste going into the lake, which supplies potable water to Sunnyside and East Carbon.

The second factor involved land issues concerning private property that borders the mountain lake.

At the Aug. 28 council meeting, Columbia subdivision resident Jack Roraff led the residents' presentation to the East Carbon officials.

"I remember seeing a young man taken from a van and put in a wheelchair so he could fish up there at Grassy Trail. It was his first fish and it was one of the most touching things I have ever seen. And to me situations like that are reason enough to open that reservoir," pointed out Roraff.

According to the Columbia subdivision resident, he has obtained 300 signatures after two days of canvassing the area and hopes to get support from at least 500 local citizens by week's end.

Roraff detailed for the council his attempts over the past few years to get the lake re-opened to the pubic and finished his remarks with this question.

"If I can prove to you that the majority of the people in this town and its surrounding areas would like to have that lake open then will you as a public body help in whatever way you can to do the publics will?" asked Roraff.

According to East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine, a court order closed the reservoir. Therefore, it would take a second court order to legally reopen Grassy Trail to the public.

East Carbon Councilmember David Maggio concurred with LaFontaine, but added that the problems at Grassy Trail Reservoir went beyond the disputes with private private property owners.

"The problem we had as a council is that the public was trashing that lake. To put it very bluntly, the levels of human waste in that water had become a major problem," pointed out the councilmember.

"We shot ourselves in the foot. Our citizens were not allowed up there for 47 years and then we had to close it after two seasons because of the mess people had created," continued Maggio.

According to the East Carbon city council member, the state water quality board had become involved with the situation because of the turbidity and waste in the water.

The mayor further stated that when he was running for office he went door to door and many wanted to see the lake re-opened.

To push the effort forward Carl Gramlich of the division of wildlife was in attendance to offer his input concerning the issue.

"The division would support this council if it decided to move forward with re-opening that lake," stated Gramlich.

According to the division officer city officials would have to take a petition before a regional advisory council and if they approved the action the division could then reopen the lake.

Gramlich further reported that if the petition was submitted during the next RAC meeting during the spring of '08 then it is possible that officials could approve and possibly open the lake as soon as spring of '09.

"You would have to get the county and Bureau of Land Management to sign off because they have property up there and so does the county but we would help to police the area and provide assistance anyway we could," said Gramlich.

According to the council the biggest hurdle will come in the form of the private land owners.

"I talked with Gary Jensen a few years back," said Maggio. "And he told me in no uncertain terms that Pentacreek would never allow the public on or near their land if they could stop it."

The Pentacreek company is one of the chief land owners near the reservoir.

The council continued to take public input and by meetings end they had agreed that parking, restrooms, no fires and other concessions would have to be made but the council would move forward with attempting to re-open the lake for public use.

"That lake would really benefit the whole county but especially East Carbon and Sunnyside just because of geography," concluded Gramlich. "We have seen what a large economic boost the small fisheries have been within the county and open fishing up there would be great for this community."

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