People in line to protest water right
Facing two lawsuits that claim Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District broke the law when water was diverted from the Weber River, the government last week continued to deny the allegations.
"There has never been any question as to the fact that we have a right to obtain water along the Weber River," Mountain Regional chief Andy Armstrong said. "There is no question as to if we’re stealing water."
But two lawsuits filed against the county by Summit Water Distribution Co. and Davis and Weber Counties Canal Company allege other people’s water rights were damaged when Mountain Regional violated its permit by digging trenches in the river to recharge failing wells the county owns near Peoa.
The wells supply the Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline which pumps water from South Summit to the gated Promontory subdivision.
Since the controversy began, Mountain Regional has obtained a stream alteration permit from the state, Armstrong said.
But Mountain Regional must obtain a new water rights permit before investigators can likely determine whether county officials stole surface water from the river.
"It’s a fact that the Weber River has been cut into," said Woodland resident Bill Miles, a Republican vying against Basin Democrat Bob Richer for a seat on the Summit County Commission.
Miles blasted Richer, the commission incumbent and one of Mountain Regional’s chiefs, for allowing the alleged violations to occur.
Richer countered that the state Division of Water Rights hasn’t declared the county has broken any laws.
The current permit for the pipeline, however, requires only groundwater be taken for Promontory, said Miles, who insists water rights officials differentiate greatly between surface and groundwater.
"They’re not getting groundwater, they’re taking water right out of the river," Miles alleged.
Richer countered, "Things aren’t always as black and white as someone running for a political office can stand up here and say."
The incumbent continued to back decisions Mountain Regional made to divert water in Peoa.
"We’re not taking a spoonful more of water than what we are contracted to," Richer said, adding, "We believe we’ve done nothing wrong."
Still, members of the public will likely protest the attempt by Mountain Regional to alter language in its water right to include surface water diversions, according to Armstrong, who calls the controversy a "gray area" in the law.
Nearly 40 protests were filed when the county was attempting to gain the original water right in 2002.
This time, Armstrong says he expects about half that many protestors.
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