Candidate: County water thieves?
As Summit County officials scurry to convince state regulators they have not broken the law by diverting water from the Weber River near Peoa, a Republican who has challenged incumbent Democrat Bob Richer for a seat on the County Commission Wednesday blamed the county for likely stealing the water.
"They’re clearly taking water out of the stream," Richer’s opponent, Bill Miles told a group of about 40 people who gathered at Kamas City Hall to hear the candidates speak. "If they are taking water illegally somebody should be held accountable."
If elected Nov. 7, Miles would be responsible for overseeing the county’s troubled water system in the Snyderville Basin. With Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District currently the subject of a probe by the state Division of Water Rights, Miles stopped short this week of calling managers at Mountain Regional inept.
"What we have right now are allegations," Richer countered during the debate. "Let’s see how it unfolds."
At issue is whether Summit County broke the law when trenches were dug near the Weber River through which water has flowed into nearby wells operated by Mountain Regional.
Critics allege the faulty design of the nearby Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline forced county officials to violate their permit and infringe on the rights of other water users along the Weber River.
"We think at the state engineer’s office that there is enough gray area with the situation that we have asked Mountain Regional to submit a new exchange application as a way to remedy that," said Ross Hansen, a Division of Water Rights engineer. "If the application were denied, then we’d have a situation where somebody is diverting water without appropriate water rights."
Before the state approved a permit in 2003 for water for the county’s pipeline in Peoa, which pumps water to the gated Promontory subdivision in Snyderville, about 36 protests were filed against the application.
The state started investigating Mountain Regional after John Flitton, an attorney for Summit Water Distribution Co., the county’s chief competitor in the Snyderville Basin, alleged in April the county had stolen surface water from the river when Mountain Regional’s permit permits only groundwater diversions in South Summit.
Mountain Regional chief Andy Armstrong denies Flitton’s allegations.
Months of discussions about the future of emergency medical services in Summit County resulted in a stalemate between fire chiefs from the East and West sides and county officials.
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