Front smolders in water war
The Summit County Commission denies allegations that officials at Mountain Regional Water Special Service District took water illegally from the Weber River near Peoa.
Commissioners fired back in court Wednesday with a 5-page response to a lawsuit filed by a private competitor that claims trenches dug near a pipeline the county owns in South Summit have allowed Mountain Regional to improperly increase its supply.
They asked on Aug. 23 that a 16-page complaint filed against Summit County and its Mountain Regional Water Special Service District be dismissed.
When shallow wells near the river failed to produce enough water for the county’s Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline, the bank of the Weber River was breached so surface water could be diverted into nearby wells, John Flitton, an attorney for Summit Water Distribution Co., claims.
But the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates wetlands in the United States, disagrees with Flitton that Mountain Regional officials broke the law when the water was diverted, Mountain Regional Water General Manager Andy Armstrong said.
"They were happy," Armstrong said Wednesday. "[The Army Corps] didn’t have any issues with the project."
According to Armstrong, "there is not a lot of merit to [Summit Water’s] lawsuit."
"I think, it’s way overstated," he recently told the County Commission.
The county began competing with private water providers in the Snyderville Basin when commissioners formed Mountain Regional about six years ago.
Without illegal diverting water to the Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline from the Weber River, Summit County couldn’t meet the demands of growth in Snyderville, Flitton said during a recent telephone interview.
A lawsuit filed June 30 against Summit County asks for a jury to declare that Mountain Regional officials violated their permit by diverting water from the river.
"Mountain Regional’s water supply/demand study overstates its source capacity by including the unauthorized Weber River diversions," Flitton’s lawsuit states.
Though the state Division of Water Rights began investigating Flitton’s claims, Armstrong says Summit County has done nothing illegal.
"We’re kind of in a gray zone with what we’re entitled to as far as a diversion on the river," he said. "What they call a diversion, we call developing the wells."
The Lost Creek pipeline delivers water from South Summit to the gated Promontory subdivision.
"Mountain Regional Water Special Service District has actual approved capacity that supports its [water concurrency] rating," the county’s response to Summit Water’s lawsuit states.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.