Due to importance, we are pasting the entire and most excellent CATHY MCKITRICK below:
EDEN — Since early April, a water exchange application for use of 400 acre feet of water in the new Hidden Lake Well near the top of Powder Mountain has stalled amid a flurry of concerns filed with Utah’s Division of Water Rights.
An Oct. 29 letter from State Engineer Ken Jones to Summit Mountain Holding Group, LLC — the real estate development arm for Summit, the collective that purchased the 10,000-acre mountain in 2013 — cited Utah law stating that a water exchange may only occur if the withdrawal does not interfere with the rights of others.
“Given the geologic complexity and legitimate concerns of water users in the area that could be impacted by this proposal, I believe further investigation would be prudent before making a decision on your application,” Jones said in his letter.
Jones called for Summit to conduct a 14-day aquifer test and monitor specific springs and creeks during its duration.
Jones also cautioned that the timeframe for such a test will soon close for this season.
“We’re trying to get the test to happen this fall during base flow times” — as opposed to springtime when snow melt causes high runoff, said Ross Hansen, the division’s regional engineer for the Ogden and Weber rivers and the west desert regional office.
The test should determine whether operation of the Hidden Lake Well causes intereference with spring and creek flows on either the Weber County or Cache County sides of the mountain.
Summit’s exchange application essentially asked for release of 400-acre feet of water from Pineview Reservoir to replenish the water taken by the well.
Summit actually owns the rights to 1,400 acre feet of water and has a development agreement in place with Weber County to erect up to 2,800 dwellings on 6,772 acres. The first phase includes 154 single-family homes, while later development could add hundreds of hotel rooms, apartments and condos.
Close to two dozen protesters filed concerns about the impact Summit’s water draw could have on residents downstream, including Cache County Corporation, Ogden City Public Utilities, Pacificorp, Elkhorn LLC, the Bar B Ranch, Four Mile Ranch, Garden of Eden Ranch, Eden Water Works Company, Middle Fork Irrigation Company, Wolf Creek Irrigation Company, Wolf Creek Water and Sewer Improvement District, Green Hills Water Sewer District, Pineview West Water Company, South Cache Water Users, Wellsville East Field Irrigation Company and the Wellsville Mendon Conservation District.
According to Hansen, a house uses about one-half an acre foot of water per year for indoor domestic use — that figure does not include water used for outside landscaping or irrigation.
For Summit’s part, Chief Operating Officer Paul Strange said they are more than happy to conduct the acquifer test.
“I think fundamentally that more data is better,” Strange said. “But we wanted to make sure it was done in a way that provided data that everybody wanted.”
At present, Summit is in the process of installing the costly pump hundreds of feet deep in the ground, a task it hopes to finish within 10 days.
“The challenges we’ve got is that the pump is not quite installed, and that needs to be done before the weather closes in,” Strange said. “The second issue is having a meaningful test at a constant rate that provides the information that everybody needs.”
An Oct. 31 letter to the Division from Jody Williams — an attorney with Holland & Hart who represents some of the protesters — urged the division to require a 14-day test at 180 gallons per minute. arguing that Summit’s pump was designed to function at that rate.
“If pumping at 180 gpm cannot be sustained for the two-week period, the rate can be backed off as occurs in aquifer tests all the time,” Williams said in his letter.
Summit’s attorney, Steven Clyde of Clyde Snow & Sessions, also responded to the division in an Oct. 31 letter, requesting a 7-day aquifer test at 150 gallons per minute instead.
“The requested 180 gpm is close to the maximum pumping rate of the permanent pump and the well itself,” Clyde said, “and will be difficult to hold constant for long periods of time, given the relatively low transmissivity of the aquifer, low efficiency of the well, high lift, sensitivity of the pumping water level to small changes in pumping rate, and the fact that the pump must deliver water to the tank.”
Clyde added that the well’s long-term average pumping rate under the division’s standards will be considerably less than 150 gpm.
By phone Thursday, Strange said the pump is not designed to run at maximum capacity for extended periods of time.
“Running at top velocity could damage the pump and cause it to shut off and interrupt the test,” Strange said. “At 150 (gpm), we’ll get a more consistent test.”
Following a Nov. 3 meeting with the various stakeholders, the division issued a modified scope of work for the required test, keeping its duration at 14 consecutive days and starting the pump rate at 150 gpm.
“If conditions in the well are such that the pump rate may be increased, or otherwise adjusted to still maintain integrity of the well, the pump rate shall be modified accordingly,” the document said.
Springs and creeks to be monitored include Pizzle Spring 3, Lefty Spring, Geertsen Canyon Creek and two sites on the headwaters of Wellsville Creek in Cache County. Water levels in two wells will also be tracked. Data collection starts seven days before pumping begins and continues seven days after it concludes.
“We have not prejudged this application in any way, shape or form,” Hansen said. “We need to let the process play out and gather all the information before making a decision.”