The drought status for western Kane County has been downgraded from exceptional to severe drought. The Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) reports that the Jackson Flat reservoir is at 70 percent capacity. This is up from last year when the reservoir stood at 49 percent in early December. Executive Director Mike Noel said he expects the reservoir to reach full capacity before the 2022 irrigation season begins. This year the irrigation season was delayed by several weeks because of the drought-related water shortage.
The main sources of reservoir water are Kanab Creek and a well. The well flow is down 35 percent due to a drop in the water level. At the board meeting held on Thursday, December 9, Noel told the board of directors that the water district will soon start drilling a new well in the alluvium closer to Kanab Creek. Noel expects the new well to increase water flow into the reservoir.
The KCWCD is preparing a 40-year water use plan. As opposed to other water right holders, a water district is not required to use its water rights, but can save the water for future uses. However, a water district is required to submit a plan for future uses with the state engineers office. Noel said, “This is a very important document to protect our water rights.” The 40-year plan is due by the end of this year.
One potential future water use is a new golf course at the Jackson Flat reservoir. The KCWCD is negotiating an inter-local agreement with the Kane County Commission related to the planned golf course. Under the agreement, Kane County would own the golf course. The water district would lease the water to Kane County using shares it holds in the Kanab Irrigation Company. The county would hire an outside company to operate the golf course.
The golf course would be managed by a board, similar to the hospital board. Noel said that the golf course board would be made up of members from the county commission, water district board, possibly Kanab City Council and the community.
The golf course would be financed by a 30-year Community Impact Fund (CIB) loan and repaid by potential profits generated by the golf course and using Transient Room Tax (TRT) funds. According to Noel, it has not been agreed how any profits in excess of the loan repayment would be allocated between the county and the water district. Noel said that it would be up to the new golf course board to decide. Also, it is not clear where the money would come from to cover any potential operating budget shortfalls.
Finally, under the agreement the county would take over the various land leases. The water district is waiting to hear back from SITLA about leasing 101 acres of land to build a golf course, as there are also two housing developments bidding on the land. The board of directors went into a closed session to talk about “some legal issues” related to the SITLA lease bid.
The KCWCD is also waiting to hear on a decision about a Recreation and Public Purposes (R&PP) lease with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for an additional 40 acres. That plot of land includes an old gravel mine pit that would be turned into a pond.
The county commissioners have not made a decision on the inter-local agreement. Noel said he expects the golf course to be up and running in two and one half to three years if everything goes well, but noted, “It might not happen under this [Biden] Administration.”