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Sunnyside and ECC may join together for feasiblility study on Grassy Trail Reservoir

Sun Advocate reporter

To help with the possible relocation of Grassy Trail Reservoir, Sunnyside and East Carbon City are looking into joining together to back a feasibility study in finding a new location for the reservoir.

The topic has been discussed at a Sunnyside City Council last week and was talked about on Tuesday night at an ECC council meeting.

A possible plan in the works could have a new reservoir built in the areas near Sunnyside and East Carbon City. The project would not only include the building of a new reservoir but the impact of the project could also extend the life of West Ridge Mine.

Warren Monroe, a senior construction manager with Jones and DeMille Engineering, talked to the East Carbon City councilors about the current plans with Grassy Trail Reservoir in terms of a feasibility study.

"Since the mines and industrial uses for the water has diminished, the need for that water has diminished. However the water rights are still there," said Monroe.

Monroe said there is a 50 year time frame where the cities must show beneficial use of the water. That study has never been done, he said.

The water is in the name of both cities right now, Monroe said.

The Division of Water Rights within the state is questioning the validity of the water right in terms of municipal purposes.

On paper there is enough water at Grassy Trail Reservoir right now, Monroe said. But from a physical perspective the reservoir is in trouble.

Measurements taken at the reservoir a few weeks ago have shown that more water is coming in to the reservoir now than is used on a hot summer day. More than twice as much water is coming in through the left and right hand forks than what is going out to the water treatment plant but the reservoir level is not rising, Monroe said.

"As near as we can tell that lake is leaking terribly," said Monroe. That makes the validity of the Range Creek water even more imperative to get over here for domestic, municipal and industrial uses, he said.

Now the Division of Water Rights wants to see a long range plan put into place, since the 50 year proof period has passed.

"That's the dilemma we are in right now," said Monroe.

Monroe proposed that East Carbon join in on the study because both cities share the water rights.

The application for the study would need to be turned into the Community Impact Board by the end of the week.

East Carbon City councilors requested that City Attorney Jeremy Humes research the possible agreement for the city before signing off on the study.

UtahAmerican Energy Inc. has been in discussions with local municipalities about redirecting Grassy Trail creek to a new location where a reservoir would be built. One of the reasons behind it is because of an opportunity to extend the life of West Ridge Mine by 18 months to two years, according to Doug Parsons, Sunnyside City mayor. If nothing was done the mine would have about two years of mining left.

UtahAmerican is seeing if it is feasible to move Grassy Trail creek from its present location to a couple of different areas they have looked at. One of the areas that has been discussed is Little Bear Canyon which sits on school trust lands.

If the land is acquired from the school trust, then UtahAmerican would deed the property over to both Sunnyside and East Carbon City. Sunnyside City, Sunnyside Co-Generation and East Carbon City have all been involved in the project, Parsons said.

Four boar holes have been drilled in Little Bear Canyon to make sure that there is no fractures in the ground so it can be prepared for a dam site. The road crossing through Sunnyside LLC leading up to Little Bear is classified as a County Class D road.

Parsons said Carbon County has already agreed to give UtahAmerican a right-of-way for a pipeline that would go from Grassy Trail Reservoir to the new site. The financing for the project will all come from UtahAmerican at a cost of about $15 million, Parsons said.

If the new reservoir is created, no changes would be done to the current water treatment plant, noted Parsons.

Currently Grassy Trail Reservoir has about 800 square acres of capacity. If the reservoir is built the capacity would be increased to about 1,000 square acres.

"I think it (the new reservoir) would be a good plus for the cities and the power plant," said Parsons.

Sunnyside Co-Generation had some questions about the project, Parsons said, most of which had to do with water rights, diversions and related issues.

The time line for the project states that it must be done within two years, Parsons said.

"Hopefully everything will go good and we'll have a new reservoir," stated Parsons.

The current reservoir is not without problems. There have been issues with silt in the water and the reservoir was not built up to the required code.

All of those involved in the project are hopeful that it will be considered a "win/win" situation for the communities of East Carbon, Sunnyside and other water users including Sunnyside Co-Generation plant and UtahAmerican.

Sunnyside city councilors and UtahAmerican are in agreement that the current reservoir is in need of repairs. UtahAmerican and the local area would stand to gain from the project as UtahAmerican would increase the recovery of coal reserves in the vicinity near the reservoir and the area would benefit from the possible increase in job opportunities.

UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. is a Utah corporation which through its subsidiary West Ridge Resources, Inc. operates the West Ridge mine. UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. is also developing the Lila Canyon mine located in Emery County which was scheduled to be in commercial production starting last year. The Lila Canyon coal will be a high quality steaming and PCI coal. UtahAmerican Energy, Inc. is a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation, the largest privately owned coal company in America. Producing approximately 30 million annual tons of bituminous coal from mines located in Utah, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio that provide affordable energy to households and businesses across the country and to international consumers, according to the company's website.

The cities should know more about the feasibility study in February.

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