Opponents of a plan to build a water treatment plant at the mouth of Mill Creek Canyon figuratively passed the hat Tuesday night in an effort to raise the $100,000 they believe will be necessary to fund their fight with City Hall.
The Save Mill Creek Committee has hired an attorney and a consulting hydrologist to augment its volunteer effort to stop the proposed treatment plant, committee chairman Harold Gardiner told about 125 people attending an open-air meeting at Evergreen Park in Holladay.The committee has $4,500 in its treasury, Gardiner said. "The fact of the matter is, we're going to need a lot more money," he said.
The committee plans to concentrate on the approximately 400 creekside homeowners in their neighborhood-based fund-raising effort, Gardiner said, adding that contributions of $250 apiece would allow the committee to meet its goal.
The committee has been active since July, when Salt Lake City's consulting engineer completed an engineering feasibility study of the plan to take 6 million gallons per day out of Mill Creek and send it to valley homes for culinary use.
Salt Lake public works officials say the plant, estimated to cost from $6 million to $8 million, is needed to meet the water demands of a growing population.
But opponents say Mill Creek water would only amount to about 2 percent of the city's total daily needs. That is too little, they say, to justify taking 60 to 80 percent of Mill Creek's water - the amount owned by the city under water agreements struck in the 1920s - and impose watershed restrictions on one of the state's most popular recreational areas.
Committee leaders admitted at the Tuesday meeting that their fight would be difficult, and said they believe water officials are convinced the treatment plant is necessary. For that reason, they said, they decided to hire environmental attorney Jeffrey Appel and hydrologist Bruce Callister.
"Under what conditions can Mill Creek be saved? We don't know the answer to that," said committee member John Rideout. "That's why we've hired" consultants.
Appel declined to detail his legal strategy at the meeting. But Gardiner said the consultants have already helped the group find documents it had been searching for unsuccessfully and could help the committee if it proceeds with a plan to subpoena the city for the complete feasibility report that they say the city has not given them despite repeated requests for the document.
Salt Lake officials organized a public hearing in August to allow comment on the proposal and said they will schedule another such hearing in the future. But even if the treatment plant sails through the various bureaucratic hoops necessary for final approval, construction won't begin for at least six years, according to LeRoy Hooten, Salt Lake public works director.