County approves water agreement
The Summit County Council took a step Wednesday night to end the two decade-long ‘water war’ that has besieged the county. They approved a master agreement that would declare the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District a regional water authority to ensure water for the Basin for the short and long-term.
Summit County Council member Chris Robinson, who has acted as the main negotiator in the agreement on behalf of the county for the past two and a half years, summed up the deal that was struck.
"Three public water suppliers will now be cooperating and letting Weber Basin be the peacekeeper or master wholesale water provider," Robinson said. "Instead of fighting each other, they will cooperate with each other."
The agreement states that the three public water suppliers—Park City Municipal Corporation, Mountain Regional Water Special Service District and Summit Water Distribution Company have entered into a deal with Weber Basin to manage and broker any excess water that the three suppliers may have, according to Summit County Council member Roger Armstrong.
Summit County Manager Bob Jasper was pleased with the Council’s approval of the agreement, which took well into Wednesday evening.
"We now have a guaranteed source of raw water to the Basin, and that’s big," Jasper said. "Western Summit County now has a major agency saying, ‘We will ensure that you have water in the future.’"
As part of the agreement, Weber Basin will purchase the East Canyon Treatment Plant, a 50 percent interest in the Highway 40 pipeline and an optional 50 percent interest in the S.R. 224 pipeline from Summit Water, Hy Saunders and Trilogy Limited. Weber Basin will also build a three-way interconnect system to link water supplies together.
Weber Basin will use any excess water that it has belonging to Mountain Regional, Park City or Summit Water and move it where it is needed. Those three suppliers will also provide Weber Basin with a rolling five-year commitment to provide water demand and surplus.
"The entity that makes the water available gets compensated for whatever the use is," Armstrong said.
Under the current system, every time a supplier wishes to change its demand, it results in a claim at the state water engineer’s office. Many of the parties’ insurers have incurred millions of dollars responding to those actions. According to Armstrong, there is a clause in the agreement that prohibits parties from doing so.
"This will put us on the footing of cooperating instead of contending with each other," Robinson said. "It’s a cost-effective and timely way to provide current and future water needs."
Beginning in 2020, water providers will each pay a yearly regionalization fee (Mountain Regional, $200,000; Park City, $200,000; Summit Water, $500,000 and the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District, $50,000). The sewer district will also pay a one-time $175,000 fee to have Weber Basin establish a minimum stream flow in East Canyon Creek.
The agreement will also escrow money to a property tax case that has existed since 1996 between Summit Water and Summit County. Of the sales proceeds that are going to Summit Water, Trilogy Limited and Hy Saunders, $800,000 will be withheld, pending a resolution of the tax case.
On Thursday, the Park City Council approved the water agreement on a 5-0 vote. Summit Water Distribution Company and the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District Board must still sign on to the agreement.
Jasper is confident all parties will participate.
"None of us got 100 percent of what we wanted, but in a big picture sort of way this works for all the partners," Jasper said. "It’s good to say partners because we were far from partners before."
Robinson agreed with that sentiment.
"I’ve been working on it for several years; it’s a good outcome, a fair agreement," Robinson said.
The specifics of the water agreement, known as the Western Summit County Master Agreement, can soon be viewed online at http://www.summitcounty.org.
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