Next days critical for creek |

Next days critical for creek

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District officials are pleading with people to conserve water, a step in preventing, they say, another mass killing of fish in East Canyon Creek.

"We’re in a drought condition and the supply is lower than normal," said Mike Luers, general manager of the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District. "There is a good chance that if the overall demand for water continues, and the drought continues, that there will be sections of the creek drying up this year."

Fish died four years ago when the creek dried up.

"People need to be aware that when they increase the use of their water, in certain circumstances, there is an environmental impact," Luers said. "We’re seeing that now that water levels are getting down to critically low levels."

Parts of East Canyon Creek near Kimball Junction and Old Ranch Road are "exceedingly low," Luers lamented, adding that the flow of the stream is less than 45 percent of normal.

"Hopefully, somebody will cut back a little bit, realizing that maybe they’re using water that they could possibly do without for a short period of time," he said. "We’re all responsible because we all use the water."

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Meanwhile, a $77 million expansion planned at the Basin Water Reclamation District could alleviate pressure on streams in Snyderville.

"It could be the largest locally funded public-works project in the Snyderville Basin," Luers explained. "It’s a huge project, not only for the district, but for the community."

Growth projections for western Summit County show the population in Park City and the Snyderville Basin nearly doubling by 2030.

"We need to expand our ability to provide service to meet that projected growth," Luers said. "We’re expanding both plants to meet the needs of a growing community, and at the same time, we’re increasing the level of treatment to help restore various creeks and reservoirs."

Wastewater plants on East Canyon Creek and Silver Creek can treat about 6 million gallons per day, Luers said, adding the growth could demand almost 11 million gallons of water be treated each day.

Growth generates impact fees the district will use to fund the expansion, Luers said.

"We need to expand the plants to handle new growth, so, they’re the ones who should have to pay for it," he said. "The project will be funded 100 percent with impact fees; therefore, user fees from current customers will not be used to fund this project."

An engineering firm is designing the new plants, but construction will not be complete for at least three years.

"The total process is fairly lengthy," Luers said.

East Canyon and Silver creeks are impaired streams, according to state environmental officials, which means water quality and quantity are detrimentally impacted.

"They are not providing the beneficial use that they have designated to them," Luers said. "These projects will definitely help the creek."

High phosphorous levels in both streams caused accelerated algae growth, which causes fish to suffocate when the plants must breathe oxygen at night, he said.

"If the creek is choked with aquatic vegetation, it can use all the oxygen in the water and the fish can suffocate," he explained. "We’re going to be removing phosphorus to very low levels on East Canyon Creek."