Questions remain about where water to fill the Wohali dam will ultimately come from.

The Coalville City Council met on Monday, October 26, 2020 with a number of items on the agenda. While the council, staff and Wohali Representative met in person at the Coalville City Building, public attendance was virtual. The first thing discussed was the Wohali Dam Permit and the Coalville Water Rights that were listed on that State Dam Permit. It was stated that city staff, the mayor and council member Geary had met with Wohali at a previous private meeting to discuss this matter.

Wohali’s Presentation of the Issue

Jim Boyden represented Wohali at the Coalville City Council Meeting and said approval of their first application, approved by Coalville City Council in December of 2019, had conditions that allowed them to cite Coalville resources on their Dam Permit.

(2018-8 Condition #26 states, “The allowance by the City of the use of contract water available to the City from Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, is only for an interim period not to exceed three (3) years. The Development Agreement shall set forth a process for the Applicant to dedicate water rights and shares, acceptable to the City, or to pay a fee in lieu to the City, for water rights or shares acquired by the City, sufficient to meet the water right demands of the project. The City reserves the right to determine the acceptability of water rights, share or contract water from Weber Basin Water Conservancy District.”).

He used a timeline to show how this approval played into the process. Basically he said the Coalville City Council gave them permission to cite the Coalville water rights on the permit. He said this city water right was used as a placeholder and they are still in the process of finding their own water rights to fill the dam. Wohali’s first development application was withdrawn on May 13, 2020 before Coalville citizens had an opportunity to vote on it. CFRG questions why the dam application (filed with the state) wasn’t amended when Wohali’s first application with Coalville City was withdrawn in May- since the condition allowing the use of the city water was tied to the withdrawn application and is no longer in force.

City Staff and Council Weigh In

City Attorney, Sheldon Smith, said Wohali has the right from the state to build a dam. They have to work further to get the water to the dam. However, he conceded, “Even though, as a permitted use, they could come back to Coalville and say, “You have the responsibility to provide the water.”” Council Members asked many good questions and brought up many valid points during the discussion. Don Winters pointed out that he can’t ask Coalville City to provide water to water his farm just because it’s a permitted use in the AG Zone, so how could the city be required to provide water to a golf course just because it’s a permitted use? City Staff Don Sargent and Wohali representative Jim Boyden both stated that Wohali has agreed to provide the water for the golf course.

More Digging

CFRG (Coalville For Responsible Growth) still had some unanswered questions and concerns after the meeting was over. Follow up emails were sent to Eric Jones, P.E. Regional Engineer for Weber River/ Western Region in an attempt to verify statements made during the meeting and find answers. KPCW’s Jessica Lowell wrote an excellent article concerning this issue and Monday night’s meeting. You can find it here: KPCW Story

In it, she quotes Wohali Representative, Jim Boyden at the meeting as saying, “So even the state understands that the water right we put on there was a placeholder until such time as we could get a water right, tied to the source that we would be using as a diversion…the [Weber] river.”

This was one of the statements we questioned in our correspondence with Eric Jones, to which he replied in an email dated Tuesday, Oct. 27, “It is my understanding that Coalville City will provide the water and associated water right to fill and store in the reservoir. Mr. Boyden referenced the fact that Coalville City does not have an approved point of diversion at the proposed location to divert water from the river for the reservoir. They have filed a stream alteration permit which is being held until an approved point of diversion is at the location of the proposed stream alteration. In order for them to obtain an approved point of diversion they will need to file an exchange application or a change application. Both applications would be open for public comment. “ CFRG also asked if Coalville City had been in communication with Weber River/ Western Region concerning the Wohali Dam Application to which Eric responded in the same Oct. 27 email, “In discussing the matter with my predecessor it was not mentioned that Coalville City had any contact with our office concerning the dam application.” CFRG believes that in such an important matter concerning Coalville City Water, the city staff should be in communication with the water experts, not just take the developer’s word.

A Complicated Issue

Although this is a complicated issue, one thing is for sure – Coalville Citizens need to continue to be concerned about their water!!! The final statement in KPCW’s article eludes to why, “It’s possible that in the future, the Coalville City Council could give Wohali authority to use water from the Weber River, but at this point, that hasn’t happened.”

Photo credit:

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