‘Watershed’ pipeline agreement is signed
The expected signing of a landmark agreement today between Summit County, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District and Park City means citizens in the Snyderville Basin will likely have enough water to drink through 2020.
For years the parties couldn’t agree how several thousand acre-feet of water the city and county have reserved in eastern Summit County could be delivered to the West Side.
"This should cover us in terms of our buildout as a city," Park City Mayor Dana Williams said about the town’s future water demands.
By agreeing to deliver the water through an expanded version of the county’s existing Lost Creek Canyon Pipeline, Parkites will have access to 2,500 new acre-feet, Park City Public Works Director Jerry Gibbs said.
"This is what we need to secure our water future," Gibbs said in an interview. "This is a watershed moment, so to speak."
Mainly impact fees from new development, plus some increased user rates, will allow City Hall to spend nearly $20 million building a pipeline into Park City, he said.
"There’s no easy water anymore," Gibbs said. "This one hasn’t been easy."
With the county’s Mountain Regional Water Special Service District and its competitor, the private-sector Summit Water Distribution Company contemplating constructing separate pipelines, officials in the Marsac Building pushed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to decide which company’s project should come first.
"We certainly thought it would be a good idea to get an independent, neutral authority to study this issue and give us their recommendation, so it could take the politics out of it," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.
Ultimately providing for growth expected in western Summit County will require pipelines from Rockport near Wanship and East Canyon reservoir in Morgan County, the Bureau of Reclamation report states.
"But [Summit County’s] Rockport (pipeline) probably made more sense in the short term," Richer explained.
The report relieved Park City officials, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars reserving water near Rockport reservoir for more than a decade, Williams said, adding, "There is no physical way for us at this point in time to put water into anything that Summit Water has."
"It was instrumental," Williams said about the study. "We certainly had our ideas, Mountain Regional had theirs, Summit Water had theirs, so we lobbied the [federal government] to actually come out and try to do something that’s as independent as possible."
Working with Summit County to deliver the reserved water significantly reduced the cost of a project that could have exceeded $50 million, the mayor contends.
"I think if we had tried to go this alone it could have been cost prohibitive for us to do it," Williams said, adding that construction of the pipeline could take three years. "We had to get this agreement done before we started determining what the (pipeline) alignment to come into the city could be."
Last week, the Park City Council approved the agreement and the Summit County Commission is expected to sign today.
The 4,100 acre-feet of water Summit County reaps from the deal could meet demands in the Snyderville Basin for nearly two decades.
"The citizens should feel that their public officials worked together to interconnect systems and to look to the future," Richer said.
The pipeline will create needed redundancy between Park City and the county, he added.
"It finally does give us an ability to interconnect our systems and to receive backup culinary water," Richer said. "If one system goes down, you can switch to water from another system."
Higher costs to deliver more water to the area should be covered by growth in the Snyderville Basin, he said adding that this project will not result in water rates increasing for Mountain Regional customers.
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Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, has died, the municipal government said. Erickson was involved at some level in nearly all the major decisions regarding growth and development in Park City since the early 1990s.