Several westside Uintah County residents say their farmland is being destroyed by Roosevelt City's culinary water wells, and they want the city to find an alternative water source.
More than 40 concerned landowners living in the Hayden area, 15 miles north of Roosevelt near the Uintah and Duchesne County line, attended a State Division of Water Resources public hearing last week in Vernal to voice opposition to Roosevelt City's application seeking to divert water from an old irrigation well at Hayden to a new $200,000 well at the water's source.The 7-year-old, $6 million culinary water system produces ample water for Roosevelt's 6,000 customers but is located on farmland suffering from a severe lack of moisture.
Roosevelt City Administrator Brad Hancock said he can't see what the protest had to do with changing the water diversion point. "We're not trying to drill another well or produce any more water. In fact, we produce not even quite half of the water right that we have. But I think they wanted to be heard. They've got some concerns up there that pumping from the Hayden source is causing the dryness. I don't know if I entirely agree with that. I think the drought is the biggest factor. We're in the sixth year of drought at this point," said Hancock.
The need to change the diversion point from one well to another arose from difficulties in producing acceptable water from an old irrigation well. "We drilled well No. 5 about 15 feet from the original well No. 1," explained Hancock. "The reason we did that is so we could produce from that source with a different well so we wouldn't bring up so much sand."
Hayden area landowner Steve Poulson said the issue goes deeper than that. He and other landowners in the area feel their senior water rights are being violated by the depletion of ground water from the Hayden source.
Poulson questioned the city's right to any Hayden water, and said there have been conflicting stories concerning Roosevelt's water resources. "Roosevelt City contends the Hayden wells were their only alternative. But we have reliable and knowledgeable sources that say Roosevelt opted to drill the wells and not take water out of Starvation Reservoir, or seek alternative sources," said Poulson.
" We feel that homework wasn't done when they did those wells to determine what taking that quantity of water out of the Hayden area would do to the water rights and the land of the people below."
One possible solution would be construction of a reservoir near Uintah Canyon, something both the city and landowners agree on. There are currently no water storage facilities in place to serve the west end of Uintah County and eastern Duchesne County.
The Central Utah Project bill now in Congress gives authorization for a five-year study to be conducted to determine if such a project is realistic. Funding for the proposed Uintah Canyon Dam is not included in the current bill and would have to be sought separately should such a project prove feasible.
In the meantime, Poulson said his group will continue to enlist the help of concerned residents, and city and county officials to support the Uintah Canyon Dam project. Uintah County officials have gone on record supporting the position of the Hayden landowners and have written letters to concerned agencies in support seeking support for the construction of the dam.
"We don't want to fight Roosevelt," said Poulson, "but we feel the Hayden wells should be shut down as soon as an alternative water source is found."