Citizens on the East and West sides of Summit County may be divided on some issues but they are united when it comes to preserving their pristine mountain surroundings. They are especially protective of their water quality which is why it is extremely important for everyone to pay close attention to plans for a new petroleum pipeline that could jeopardize both.
Tesoro Refining and Marketing, LLC, is proposing to build a 135-mile long, 12-inch diameter, heated pipeline to transport approximately 60,000 barrels of waxy crude per day from its oil fields in the Uinta Basin to the refineries in north Salt Lake City. Dubbed the Uinta Express Pipeline, it will traverse a 14-mile section of the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest near Wolf Creek in the Upper South Fork area of the Heber-Kamas Ranger District. It is slated to enter Summit County near Woodland, travel west through Francis and then turn northward, bisecting the Kamas Valley.
The proposed route skirts the west side of the Kamas Valley and then runs to the east of Rockport Reservoir before turning west at Wanship and heading toward the Salt Lake Valley.
While much of the alignment runs along the existing Chevron pipeline, the Tesoro project will require a wider easement, 50 to 100 feet, and representatives from the company have been notifying property owners along the route that their land may be affected. That has some Kamas Valley residents up in arms not only about their own property but about nearby rivers, creeks and wetlands.
But residents on the West Side should be concerned, too.
The Kamas Valley, strategically located at the base of the Uinta Mountains, is an important catch basin for snowmelt which flows into the Weber River. Much of that runoff is stored in Rockport reservoir for use by both the east and west sides of the county and during the official comment period for the pipeline project three major culinary water providers expressed their concerns about the project's potential impact on water quality.
Park City Municipal Corp., the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and Mountain Regional Water Special Service District have submitted written comments. According to Park City, the pipeline alignment comes "within a few feet" of an intake structure that supplies 35 percent of the city's water supply.
All three entities also cite the possibility of a possible pipeline rupture and the devastating effects it could have on the area's already-stretched water supply.
According to Tesoro, the pipeline is preferable to the increasing number of oil transport trucks currently traveling through the county via U.S. 40 and Interstate 80. That traffic is currently pegged at 250 trips per day and is expected to increase as the oil fields are expanded. And that may be partially true. But installing a pipeline does not mean there won't be continued truck traffic, as well. It just means there will be a different kind of environmental threat.
If this scenario worries you, as it does local water managers, please consider attending Tesoro's community open house this Tuesday, June 10, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at South Summit Middle School, 355 East 300 South, in Kamas. According to Tesoro representatives, it will be an opportunity for the community to review maps and other information and to ask questions. The public input will be passed along to the engineering and design teams.
Too often, citizens are complacent during these preliminary study periods but become enraged when the bulldozers start tearing up the land at an already approved project site. Tuesday is your chance to weigh in before it is too late.