|The Carbon County Water Conservancy District's main charge is to maintain and look after the safety of the dam that contains Scofield Reservoir. The dam is now 60 years old and some of the structures around it are needing replacement. Some work on it may begin this year.|
While money is the economic stimulus that makes an economy run, other things are just as or more important in the survival of an area. In Carbon County it has often been said that water is the lifeblood of the community and in the long run will always be more valuable than land.
While many citizens think of water as only important when they take a drink or water their lawn, it is probably the single most significant factor in the economy of the area. Water is needed for almost everything that is done in this county; for agriculture, for residential use and for commercial/industrial purposes.
And so logically one of the most important agencies that serves the county is the Carbon Water Conservancy District and its governing board. When the district was created in the 1940s, its main purpose was to oversee the dam at Scofield Reservoir both in terms of maintenance and safety. While those responsibilities still remain, the district has also taken on other issues over the years, mainly because they were in the forefront of keeping healthy water supplies available in Carbon County.
The boards members (called directors) and its president are appointed by the county commission to four year terms. The county is divided up into five divisions, from which each board member should be appointed. But sometime in the 1950s the county deviated from that protocol and until last year the members were often appointed at large. Recently the county commission has reviewed the situation and as board terms expire the commission intends on going back to the original plan. However there are concerns about doing this. When the plan was put in place in 1942 the population of the county was spread out much differently than it is today. More people lived in the outer areas of the county in those days, whereas now the concentration is in the area between Helper and Wellington.
The district has the charge to take care of the dam and that means they must have personnel to handle it. Presently the position of dam tender falls to Bob Davis whose payment comes not only through the CCWCD but also from the canal and ditch companies in the county.
"It's very important that the dam be monitored for both maintenance and safety," said CCWCD chairman Richard Lee. "A few years ago a federal government study showed that if the dam was to break or collapse the cost in damages could be near $600 million dollars."
Once before a dam collapsed in the Fish Creek-Price River drainage and it cost millions of dollars to repair the damage and millions more to recover the money that was lost to the local economy because of that failure. It happened in April of 1917 when the Mammoth Dam collapsed just below where the little Gooseberry Reservoir now stands in Sanpete County. The dam had been constructed by Carbon County concerns and with no other dam in the way to contain the billions of gallons of water that came down the drainage all at once (the first Scofield Dam was not built until 1927), the flow wiped out mining concerns, agriculture and the Rio Grande rail line in Price Canyon. It also caused a lot of damage to private property all the way to Woodside and even caused one death when a Price woman was swept away by it waters while viewing the turbulence coming down the river.
The board of the CCWCD meets quarterly, and sometimes more often when needed. The directors are paid $1,000 per year for their service. The chairman plans the maintenance schedule, meets with government officials concerning issues with the dam (the reservoir is controlled by the Bureau of Reclamation) and plans new projects that impact the dam.
Currently there is a plan in place to replace the aging spillway on the sixty-year-old dam. That work could begin this year if all goes right.
The current members of the board for the CCWCD are Lee, Mike Milovich, Jack Chiaretta, Nick Sampinos and presently there is one vacancy.
Another board that is important to the county is the Board of Adjustments. This group of people is a kind of secondary board to the Carbon County Planning Commission. It has three main purposes.
The first purpose of this board is to hear appeals for alleged errors in the enforcement of the development code of the county. That means when a citizen feels the enforcement of the development code has an error in an order, requirement, decision, or determination, they can take it to the board and have a hearing on the matter.
Secondly, the board can grant special exceptions to the development code. Those exceptions must still, however, meet minimum standards of public health, safety, morals, convenience, order, prosperity and general welfare. The exceptions are made to the exact language of the code.
Finally the board can grant variances. Variances allow people to utilize property that might otherwise, because of physical restrictions or other reasons, be unusable under the development code. A good example might be that someone has a type of lot where a 30 foot set back from the street for building a structure is impossible. The board could make that set back less under certain circumstances.
The Board of Adjustments consists of five members, two of which sit on the county planning and zoning commission. There are also two alternates to serve on the board if needed. The members are appointed by the county commission. The members serve for five year terms. No one on this board receives any compensation for serving.
The present Board of Adjustments consists of Jon Anast, board chair, and members Chuck Buchanan, Don Hamilton, Joe Mason and Richard Tatton. The two alternates are Anita Bruno and Lynna Topolovec.
Editors note: This is the third in a series of four articles discussing the various boards and committees that operate within Carbon County government.