East Carbon and Sunnyside officials met for a special joint city council meeting on the Price River and lower Green River adjudication on June 16.
Gerald Kinghorn of Parson Kinghorn Harris, a Salt lake City law firm representing the two towns, discussed improving a water rights agreement for shares of the Price River, lower Green River and Grassy Trail Creek that belonged to Kaiser Steel when the company was located in East Carbon and Sunnyside.
The attorney traveled to Sunnyside last Thursday to discuss the towns' need to improve water right agreements with the East Carbon and Sunnyside city councils.
A lawsuit regarding the rights to the water was started in the 1950s by Kaiser Steel and U.S. Steel.
When parts of Dragerton were annexed into East Carbon and Sunnyside, the flow and storage rights to the coal company water were split and given to the now separate cities.
East Carbon currently owns the flow right to the water, while Sunnyside owns the storage right.
Since both a flow and storage right are needed in order to use the water, this split makes it impossible for either city to use the water without the other.
After the lawsuit was filed, Kaiser Steel disagreed with the information gathered by the state attorney and filed an objection to it.
In 2000, the state attorneys finally responded to the objection made by Kaiser Steel.
Kinghorn explained the need to make some small changes and bring the decree up to date before filing with the state attorney's office.
Before filing a decree on the water rights, Kinghorn explained to the councils that the city officials should change the water use to municipal purposes instead of limiting the water to one use, such as industrial or irrigation purposes.
Since municipal use incorporates all other uses, changing to municipal benefits the cities in many ways, the most important being the use of the water in any way they want or need. This also gives them the right to use the water for any future industries that may come into the cities. Both councils were in favor of changing the water to municipal use.
Kinghorn asked the cities for permission to file a municipal change application with the state attorney's office in order to change to the water to municipal use.
The Sunnyside and East Carbon City Councils both made motions to have Kinghorn file the municipal change application with the state attorney. The motion passed unanimously by both councils.
Kinghorn also mentioned eventually filing a non use application that would allow the cities to keep their water rights while they are not currently using the water. Since it may take some time for the cities to start using their water rights, filing a non use application will prevent their water from being forfeited. Even with the non use application being filed, the cities will still only be given five years after the date the application is filed to use their water before it is forfeited for non use. Kinghorn explained this as the "use it or lose it period."
If there is a surplus, water can be sold by the cities to areas outside of city limits. Shares of water cannot be sold.
Kinghorn also explained that he would like to try to have the issues with the water rights rectified within 90 to 120 days from filing in order to best serve the cities.