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Protests filed in water fight

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

A man who claims Summit County officials are taking water illegally after cutting into the bank of the Weber River is asking the Utah Division of Water Rights to hold the government responsible.

"Please do what is right for the citizens of Summit County and the current users of this Weber River water," Woodland resident Mike Marty states in a letter he wrote to Utah State Engineer Jerry Olds, the state’s top water rights officer. "Please don’t cater to the developers of Promontory and hurt the individuals and organizations that currently have water rights and use this water."

At issue is whether officials at Summit County’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District acted outside the scope of their permit by diverting surface water from the river when the trenching began two years ago.

"Why is the state being so lenient with Mountain Regional when they violated the conditions set forth in the original application?" Marty asks. "They cut into the Weber River in two places without a written permit from the state, a direct violation of the law."

Other protests from the Weber River Water Users Association, Davis and Weber Counties Canal Company and the private Summit Water Distribution Company all but accuse county officials of stealing water from the river in Peoa to irrigate golf courses in the gated Promontory subdivision.

Now Marty and Woodland resident Bill Miles, who campaigned last year against Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer, have filed formal protests against the county.

While "heavily involved" in the heated race against Richer, Miles insists he studied what county officials did to the river near Peoa.

"I talked with county employees who knew it was wrong to cut into the river," Miles, a Republican, writes in a letter protesting the cuts. "I read the Utah code that states that one could not cut into the river without a written permit from the state."

During his campaign Miles accepted a campaign contribution from Hy Saunders, the president of Summit Water Distribution Company, who has lodged a formal complaint against Summit County in the water rights dispute.

"I listened to Summit County commissioners describe the actions of cutting into the banks of the Weber River as ‘alleged allegations,’" according to Miles. "Now the county is describing the cuts as being ‘unintentional.’"

According to John Mabey, an attorney who represents Mountain Regional, "Well production (in Peoa) went down."

By draining surface water into the wells from the river the county hoped to boost production for its Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline that delivers water from eastern Summit County to the Snyderville Basin for the gated Promontory golf community.

"[Mountain Regional] unintentionally breached the stream bank," explained Mabey in a water rights hearing last month.

The state must now decide if the diversions are legal, Richer said confidently.

"I don’t believe there is anything expressed in those letters that wasn’t expressed in the hearing," the commissioner added about protests filed by Miles and Marty.

But when Summit County was OK’d to dig wells in Peoa to supply its pipeline with groundwater, no approval was received by the county to dig the trenches in the river that ultimately breached the stream bank, says John Flitton, an attorney for Summit Water Distribution Co.

"There is a video that I had the opportunity to view that clearly shows not only the cuts in the river, but material placed in the river that direct water toward the cuts," charges Miles in his letter to state officials. "Mountain Regional has been taking water from the Weber River for approximately a year now with no measuring device to determine how much water is coming out of the river."

Before a decision is made, citizens interested in commenting about the matter can contact Olds, who can be reached at (801) 538-7371.


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