Saturday, March 2, 2013

Wasatch Canyons Wilderness vs Watershed Protection

[update. 2013 HB 36 passed with a new amendment proposal. It works]

I have been fighting for a year to pass a bill, now 2013 HB 36 , (See the link for more information and videos) to make it easier to reuse rain water and SLC has been blocking it, I believe, because they want to keep control of private property up all of the east side canyons of Salt Lake valley. They seem to be afraid they don't have enough jurisdictional power and want more. They have the League of Cities and Towns to help them.

Initially I thought this added line was to protect Salt Lake City to avoid lawsuits from people wanting to use their own property. Then I thought is was that they really wanted to protect the watershed, the drinking water used by 60% of Salt Lake Valley. With their rejection of my last suggestion, it appears they don't feel they have enough jurisdictional power over all the private property up the canyons.

The fight is over a few words, shown below as 143a:

139 (6) Beneficial use of water under Subsection (2)(b) does not
constitute a water right
140 and may not be:
141 (a) changed under Section 73-3-3;
142 (b) assigned;
143  (c) consolidated with a water right ; or
143a (d) used as a basis to establish the availability of water for land use development.

My latest compromise used this for line 143a

143a (d) used to bypass watershed protection jurisdiction as provided by
Section 10-8-15
I feel like their version of 143a is a Utah State-wide Zoning Ordinance.

I tried limiting that line143a to just Cities of the 1st Class (Salt Lake City and West Valley City) so it wouldn't effect all of Utah, especially the smaller areas of the state, some of which have developments with no running water.

Then I found out they wanted it to also cover the entire canyons in the Watershed. That includes areas outside of Salt Lake City and includes:

City Creek Canyon

Emigration Canyon (above Burrs Fork)
Parleys Canyon
Dell Canyon
Lambs Canyon
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Including any City in those Canyons.

So I proposed to limit line 143a to Counties of the First Class. That wasn't accepted. 

My last suggestion above,  should make the bill neutral as it doesn't take away any of SLC's current watershed protection jurisdiction, but doesn't provide any new restrictions to develop property. 

They say that isn't enough and are insistent that that the law be changed so captured storm water cannot be used as the basis for land use development approval. 

So how much watershed protection jurisdiction power do they already have?

If you look on pages 29 and 30 from the above plan, the section 10-8-15
from state law is used a lot in the watershed management plan. (pages 39 and 40 from the .pdf file)

The document does also reference the state constitution, which gives SLC a lot of power over watersheds since it appears they have locked up the water rights and 2013 HB 36 doesn't give anyone any water rights.

As a city of the 1st class, the current state law gives SLC and SL County Health Department watershed protection jurisdiction for entire canyons, not just the first 15 miles, with a few exceptions.

The limited rain water capture is likely to be used just for watering gardens and landscape. Since 2013 HB 36 requires anyone using over the (2) 100 gal. drums to let the state water engineer know what they are doing and also to meet building code, someone would need to go through quite a filtering and treatment process to use the water in a home or cabin and would need to meet plumbing code.

2500 Gallons of water might be enough for a week of water for a small cabin, perhaps more, but it could give someone in the middle of Utah an option to use their land. I believe one of the main reasons the Federal Government couldn't Homestead or sell the land in Utah was the lack of water, then in 1976 they violated their agreement at our Statehood and decided to keep the land.

The Federal Government now controls about 2/3 of Utah.
Salt Lake City, using 10-8-15 and other similar laws controls the canyons even private property outside the city boundary.

Whether or not they are abusing 10-8-15 now is not the question. Should Salt Lake City have a new law to make it more apparent they can block any and all development in the canyons on private property even if the owner can design something that also protects the watershed and doesn't take away someone's water rights?