Pond idea grows wider, deeper
Martinez's east side irrigation pond plan gets attention
Carbon County officials conducted a public working meeting on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of their involvement in a reservoir project which could benefit outdoor recreation, agriculture and industry in the eastern portion of the county.
For more than a year, East Carbon's Paul Martinez has been working with Sunnyside CoGeneration and the East Carbon Development Corporation (ECDC) to excavate a reservoir on private property just to the north of State Road 123 near East Carbon.
Originally, Martinez intended to oversee the creation of a four to five acre lake with a holding capacity of approximately 100 acre/feet of water. Martinez holds water rights of his own and has been working with East Carbon officials to investigate the community wide benefit of creating extra holding capacity for ECDC and Sunnyside CoGeneration.
During an earlier interview with Martinez, it was explained that the water could be used for dust suppression at ECDC and for several purposes at the power plant. However, as the land was excavated, the local rancher and dentist found that his ranch sat upon a prehistoric lake, the banks of which are clearly visible.
As he investigated the original lake the project began to grow in scope eventually drawing the attention of county, state and federal organizations. Tuesday's work meeting was held to determine possible county and Division of Wildlife Resources interest in the project and what that interest could mean for area citizens.
The once small lake is now being considered at 25 acres in size with a possible holding capacity of 1,100 acre/feet of water. According to Martinez, the power plant is permitted through 2026 and could remove the soil needed to create a reservoir of this scope. He also explained that of the three artesian wells he has drilled on his property all three have produced water between 28 and 34 feet below ground level.
He contends that a large layer of Mancos shale forms a water table along his property just below the ground cover.
While the group took immediate interest in the recreational possibilities of the new lake in the area, they were concerned about the complexity of water rights and the decreasing water flow brought on by drought cycles.
"I have been to at least a dozen meetings concerning the water rights of diversions one through nine and the Grassy Trail Reservoir and I'm not sure I understand all the legalities involved," said Assistant County Attorney and East Carbon City Attorney Jeremy Humes.
Martinez owns 474 private water shares himself and has the backing of East Carbon officials concerning additional flow into the lake. The issue arises from the fact that Martinez's property sits at the end of the line concerning Grassy Trail's runoff and overflow. For the local rancher, this issue would be easily mitigated by the annual flash flooding that impacts Eastern Utah's valleys and the underground water table that resides underneath his land.
According to Division of Wildlife Aquatic Program Manager Justin Hart, the state agency would be interested in providing fencing, fish, upland game and several other types of outdoor recreation should the project gain some traction and lead to an agreement.
Hart and County Engineer Curtis Page went as far as to discuss solar powered units which help to cycle and originate the water during dry years. Hart also explained that several species of fish are able to withstand difficult conditions.
As the conversation repeatedly drew back to water, the commissioners decided to look at some preliminary data before taking the discussion any further. County Geographic Information Systems Manager Ben Clement was asked to provide additional surveys of the land in question and most of those in attendance made plans to tour the area with Martinez sometime during the first week in September.
"Lets start with the water rights and the geography and move from there," said County Commissioner John Jones. "This is a large project, lets go out there and take a look."