Millard County commissioners are balking at paying assessments to the Central Utah Water Conservancy District.
The reason: Like commissioners in some of the adjoining south-central Utah Counties, they wonder if irrigation water from the Central Utah Project will ever be delivered to their county.Commissioners hope to get on the agenda of the CUWCD board of directors' Jan. 12 meeting so they can present a resolution reaffirming that the district will provide irrigation water to Millard County.
Commissioner Mike Styler said if commitments aren't made and some questions are not answered, commissioners want to hold back the money until they "feel comfortable with the project."
Initial plans of the Conservancy District call for pumping water across the divide south of Santaquin, Utah County. It would then flow to the West Millard County area in the Lower Sevier Basin. Some water rights now held in the Lower Basin would then be transferred to the Upper Basin so that counties like Sevier could likewise get benefits from the project.
Taxpayers in several south-central Utah counties have been paying the CUWCD for many years without getting water from the CUP. There have been some small projects funded with CUWCD money, but the original intent for which counties joined the district, namely more water, has not been realized.
Commissioners in several of the counties have also been disgruntled for years. There have been attempts to withdraw from the Conservancy District, but agreements were signed and counties have been locked in with funding participation.
A homeowner in Sevier County, with a home valued at $65,000, paid about $14 to the CUWCD in taxes this year.
"Our irrigation interests as well as our Farm Bureau folks, have asked that the county commission hold up the remainder of the tax money pending their being able to meet with the (CUWCD) board and resolve some questions about water delivery, and whether or not we will ever receive the benefits that have been promised by the district," Styler said.
In addition to the resolution, Millard County commissioners will also request that the district join other Millard County taxing districts in putting in escrow the tax money protested by the Intermountain Power Association until a settlement of the protest is reached.
The possibility of Millard County withdrawing from the district has been discussed, but Styler said Millard County commissioners don't really want to do so and would much rather settle the dispute.
"But we want answers and are desperate enough to resort to unusual means to get them."
Commissioners in all six south-central Utah counties contend that taxpayers have put much more money into the CUP than the benefits they have received. Styler said commissioners in other counties have agreed to support Millard County's stand on the issue and are expected to be represented at the Jan. 12 meeting.
Congress has not funded money for programs on the south end of the district, as was promised, so officials in the rural counties doubt any projects in those areas will ever be completed.
District officials have looked at a bond issue through the Western Area Power Association that could range upwards of $400 million to finance projects in the six southern counties. The district is a member of WAPA.
It has been suggested that bonds might be repayed through increased power rates. But Styler doesn't think users of WAPA public power will support rate increases for a bond issue. Such a move would have to be supported by a majority of all members of WAPA.
Millard County paid about $165,000 to the Conservancy District last year. IPA will be on the tax roll for the first time and so the figure could rise to as much as $950,000, Styler said. IPA is protesting its taxes, however, so the district will be asked to keep 44 percent of the tax in an escrow account.