Alex Joseph, Big Water mayor and polygamist, and the 350 other town residents here are talking about a new way to "raze Kane."
They are considering starting a drive to raze Kane County's boundaries and form a new county out of its eastern half. They talk about calling it "Dry Powder County," as in keep your gunpowder dry in case of an attack.Big Water Town Attorney Elizabeth Joseph, one of Alex Joseph's wives, said that would allow them to better promote development of land near Lake Powell, which she says the present Kane County officials have dragged their feet on.
Big Water would be the only incorporated town in that new county, although the unincorporated areas of Church Wells, Paria and Clark Bench would be included, Elizabeth Joseph said. The total county population would be about 550 - about 150 fewer than the state's smallest county now, Daggett County.
Maybe the person who is happiest about the news is State Libertarian Party Chairman Bob Waldrop. Big Water is the only town in the nation controlled by Libertarians, and he figures Dry Powder County could become the first county in the nation controlled by them too - if it is formed. "We support whatever Alex wants to do," he said.
Much less happy about such discussions is Kane County Commission Chairman Vincent Underwood. "I can only speak for myself, but I'm sure we would fight it. Almost any county would." One reason, he said, is that the county would lose large tracts of federal land, for which the federal government makes large payments in lieu of taxes.
Elizabeth Joseph said the division has "been an item of discussion for years and years, and is nothing new. Actually, the break would be natural."
She said the Paria River near the middle of the county would make a natural boundary separating western Kane County from the distant Big Water area - which is 57 miles from Kanab, the county seat. She said Big Water residents rarely travel to Kanab, opting to go instead to Page, Ariz., 19 miles away.
Elizabeth said, "Our big frustration is the county's total ignorance of Lake Powell. Utah has let Arizona rip off the lake, and so has Kane County. Some places like Garfield County are at least feisty and fight with the federal government to pave the Burr Trail. Kane County would have run and hid so fast it isn't funny."
She said Big Water area residents feel county officials may have hampered development around Lake Powell possibly for fear that the area could quickly grow and shift the center of control in the county.
"We have great potential here. The view
of the lake from the cliffs here is spectacular," she said, adding that it is already attracting people from Page who want to live in a more rural setting.
She said that for the new county to be formed, petitions with signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters in both the new county area and what would be the remaining portion of Kane County must be collected.
No such election could be held this year, Elizabeth said, because state law requires the petitions to be presented to the County Commission by the first Monday of May and the election to be held in July. The county would be formed if the issue were approved by a majority in each section of the county.
"We've thought about doing it seriously. We thought maybe we would do it every year until they got tired of it, and finally let us form the new county - especially because the county has to foot the bill for the election," she said.
Elizabeth thinks Dry Powder County would likely become the first Libertarian county - even though she says most residents are likely Republicans and Democrats. "Most people don't identify themselves as Libertarian, but they vote Libertarian because they like the way the Libertarian administration has handled things."