CENTERFIELD – Thanks to the approval granted at a public hearing on Dec. 15 to start issuing bonds to purchase more culinary water rights, Centerfield City is one step closer to unsnarling its culinary water problems.
A public hearing was held prior to the regular council meeting to receive public input on issuance of the bonds, as well as discuss any potential economic impact from using bonds to acquire water rights to give the city access to more culinary water.
Mayor Tom Sorensen said that the city is trying to acquire 135 acre-feet of culinary water rights by using a $607,000 grant and a $314,000 loan at a one-half percent interest rate for 30 years. Both the grant and loan are funded through the Utah Community Impact Board (CIB).
One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to roughly cover one acre of land, one foot deep.
“The CIB has gone above and beyond to help secure the financing,” Sorensen said.
In an interview with the Messenger, Garrick Willden, senior engineer for Jones and Demille, said that a water right is accompanied by a “diversion limit,” meaning there is a defined amount of water you can take out of a spring, well or other source per water share owned.
“Centerfield is hitting its diversion limit…They’re pretty much at the capacity of their water rights,” Willden said.
A spring outside Mayfield and a well are the primary sources for culinary water in Centerfield. The spring is currently producing 200 gallons of water per minute, and, according to Mayor Sorensen, that output has dwindled throughout the years.
A study in May recommended that no more than 35 building permits be issued for new homes. Since then, the city has approved 20 building permits, not counting a trailer park expansion and a new subdivision that was approved before the 35-home limit was recommended.
Councilman Jon Hansen said that the city needs to save wiggle room rather than cut it too close and run out of water.
If the city allows more homes, there will be more demand for water, and the city might not be able to meet that added demand without exceeding its diversion limit.
“Culinary and secondary water rights are related because if everybody had secondary water rights, the city needs less culinary water per home, which means you can have more homes in the town,” Willden said.
One of the major problems the city is facing during the summer is that when the irrigation water gets shut off, residents use their culinary water to water lawns and gardens.
Stewart Jensen, Centerfield’s maintenance supervisor, said that in the heat of the summer, when water from the spring runs out and he has to turn on the well pump and start taking water out of the culinary well, it’s all he can do to keep up with the demand.
“There are days when I am like, ‘Holy cow, people!’” Jensen said.
The biggest question from citizens at the public hearing was how much bond payments were going to cost them in their utility bills.
Councilman David Beck said that several years ago, the city foresaw the need to expand the culinary water supply and planned for it by raising water rates. So he said there was no need for an increase right now.
“This is only step one,” Mayor Sorensen said, referring to the issuance of the bonds.
After water rights are secured, the council will need to figure out how to get water to the town. There are several options, including building new transmission pipes from the spring to the city, drilling another well, building storage tanks and entering into joint projects with Gunnison.
With the growth that the city is seeing, doing nothing isn’t an option, council members said.
During regular council meeting, following the public hearing, the council voted unanimously in favor of accepting the grant and issuing the bonds to expand the culinary water supply for the town.