Water rights fight takes center stage
Summit County officials having already dug trenches to divert water from the Weber River now seek permits for work they performed in 2005.
But diverting surface water from the river without the proper water right is a crime, say critics of the county’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District.
"They have to steal water, they have to be thieves," said Park City resident John McMillian, a retired engineer who in the past has criticized county officials. "Put them in jail."
At issue is whether the county acted outside the scope of its permit from the Office of the Utah State Engineer by diverting surface water from the river when the trenching began two years ago.
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.
The state must now decide if the river diversions are legal.
When Summit County was OK’d to dig wells in Peoa to supply groundwater to its Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline, no approval was received by the county to dig the trenches in the river that ultimately breached the stream bank in multiple places, Summit Water attorney John Flitton says.
"Well production went down," acknowledged John Mabey, a private attorney who represents Summit County, during a nearly 3-hour water rights hearing Wednesday. "[Mountain Regional] unintentionally breached the stream bank."
Since then, however, Summit County has steadily diverted water from the river without authorization, critics say.
"Our trust level because of the past practices of Mountain Regional these past couple years is not particularly high," said attorney Michael Quealy, speaking for the protestors. "Mountain Regional still may very well be diverting water from the Weber River without a water right as we speak."
Before a decision is made, citizens interested in commenting about the matter have fewer than 30 days to submit feedback to Utah State Engineer Jerry Olds, who can be reached at (801) 538-7371.
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