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KWCWD board approves water rate increase for Cedar Mountain

by Helene Jorgensen

Kane County Water Conservancy District (KCWCD) held a public hearing during their monthly board meeting last Thursday, Dec. 10, on raising the residential water base rate by $3 per month and adding a sewage fee of $2 per month for the Cedar Mountain service area. The board of directors voted unanimously to approve the increases.

Mike Noel, Executive Director of the KCWCD, said, “the increase in the water rate from $34 to $37 per month is necessary.” When KCWCD built the water infrastructure, customers had been allowed to finance the impact fee over 10 years at a six percent interest rate. Now 10 years later, the principal and interest payments are coming to an end.

Starting Spring 2021, KCWCD will begin installing sewage pipes and build a wastewater treatment plant at Duck Creek Village. According to Noel, the Utah Division of Water Quality had asked KCWCD to enter into the wastewater business to address the recurrent problem of nitrates building up in the groundwater. Raw sewage from non-functioning septic tanks is especially a problem in the Duck Creek area. To pay for this project, KCWCD is adding a monthly $2 sewage fee.

A private citizen and Cedar Mountain homeowner stated that his monthly water base fee was $18 per month when he purchased his home seven years ago. “Now we will be looking at $37, which is a 106 percent increase. That is pretty steep in seven years.”

He and his neighbors were also concerned that they will be paying for septic tank problems for the businesses in Duck Creek Village.

Mike Kenner, KWCWD board member and Cedar Mountain resident, asked whether Duck Creek is paying for Kanab’s new golf course.

Noel said that it would not. “The way we will finance the golf course is through a Community Impact Board (CIB) loan. The loan we can get is a three percent loan over 30 years.”

Noel predicts that the CIB loan for the golf course will be for around $5 million. Noel said he had a conversation with Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain about using county Transient Room Tax (TRT) funds to repay the loan.

The world-renowned golf course architect David McLay Kidd is visiting Kanab this week to view the site of the new golf course and to meet with the board of directors over lunch. KCWCD made the first payment of $25,000 toward the design of the course last month.

The new 200 acre golf course will be located near Jackson Flat Reservoir on KCWCD and SITLA land and at the gravel pit on Bureau of Land Management land along the border with Arizona. KCWCD is also purchasing 74 acres from a private landowner.

Noel said, “the R&PP [recreational and public purposes] application with the BLM and the lease application with SITLA both were filed a while ago, but I just need a motion that the board approves of the filling of these applications. I can’t do that without board authority.”

The board unanimously passed two motions to file the BLM RPP and SITLA lease applications.

Twenty-five miles up the highway from Jackson Flat, KCWCD is proposing to build a new 6,055 acre feet reservoir near Orderville, Cove Reservoir. Water would be diverted from the East Fork Virgin River and stored for irrigation of alfalfa fields in Long Valley and Washington County.

KCWCD, along with the federal agency Natural Resources Conservation Service, held a public meeting the same evening on the draft Environmental Assessment for Cove Reservoir.

About 100 people attended the virtual meeting. Merlin Esplin, KCWCD board member and alfalfa grower in Orderville, said he thought the meeting went well. “I was very pleased that the meeting was a zoom meeting where people couldn’t get on and start ranting, rather than asking questions.”

Zach Frankel, Executive Director of the Utah Rivers Council, noted that, “democracy is about seeing critics as having input that can be used to make better policy.”

Noel agreed that the purpose of the NEPA process is to inform the public and to make better decisions.

The public comment period for Cove Reservoir ends December 31, 2020. Frankel observed that, “one thing that is really important is whether the public comments are really going to be considered.” Frankel raised the concern that, “if the EA is going to be approved in a day or week, then it is clear that the public comments are not really going to be considered in this process, and the whole thing is just a charade. So we will see what happens about rectifying some of the problems and inaccuracies in the Environmental Assessment,” said Frankel.

Noel explained, “There is a process that it goes through once the comment period is over.” Noel said, “We will let Transcon and NRCS, the lead agency on this, deal with that.”

Transcon Environmental Inc. is the consulting company doing the environmental analyses.

Noel further mentioned, “we have potentially a new [Biden] administration coming in. They may weigh in on this. But we have done all we can as a water conservancy district to see that this project goes forward.”

Another Orderville project is a new housing development. Developer Steve Neeleman is looking to build a subdivision south of the baseball fields and asked the City of Orderville and KCWCD for a tax discount. Merlin Esplin said that the Orderville City Council has already signed the deal.

Neeleman is asking for a 20 percent discount in property tax payments, up to $750,000 over 20 years. The money would be re-directed to the agency Red Hollow Community Reinvestment Project and used to build infrastructure in the subdivision.

Esplin said he was not sure he agreed with it, “You want to do a project, so you apply for this tax reinvest plan so a portion of the property taxes that would be collected on that property then goes back into helping you develop infrastructure to make your development more sellable.”

Dirk Clayson, KCWCD board member and the realtor who sold the property to the developer, said, “There is very little risk to the water district in that if there are no new taxes created, there is no discount given.”

Kane County Attorney Rob Van Dyke recommended that the board obtain a copy of the actual project area plan so they can view exactly what the “tax increment” funds will be used for.

The board members had not received any project documents ahead of the board meeting and decided to postpone the decision.

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