Last week I discussed the pool, so I thought I would discuss the topic usually following the pool discussion and that is the Escalante Well project. In June of 2007 a feasibility report was presented to the Board of Water Resources. I will refer to this report for the majority of the information in the article. I am writing this article as point of information to the public. I am not trying to take sides on the issue one way or the other; I just want to give factual information on the Escalante well project.
In 2007 Garfield County School District was paying $13,000-$18,600 per year for culinary water to irrigate about 11 acres of lawn for sports fields and playground planted in 2004 at the elementary and high school in the town of Escalante. At the time, the town of Escalante was proposing doubling the overage rates and restricting the ability to water after July 1st.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, Garfield County School District used 50 acre feet of Flaming George water rights to drill and equip a 1,000 foot deep 10 inch well. The District went through the Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Water Right to change the location of 50 acre feet of surface water to be diverted to the well rights to irrigate 12.5 acres of ground from April 1 to October 31. Some people have told me, if the water rights were not filed on we would lose these rights, I do not know if this is a true statement or not I have not found any documentation to support or deny this claim.
To cover the financial cost of the well, 15% was covered by sponsors equating to approximately $81,000. Patrons from the Escalante Community donated thousands of dollars in equipment and labor for project. It should be noted the sponsors were denied funding by the Permanent Community Impact Board for this project due to statutory restrictions on funding school districts with mineral lease funds. The Board of Water Resources granted the Garfield School District a bond totaling $459,000 to be repaid in 23 years at 3.0% interest with payments of about $28,000 per year. The total cost of the well was approximately $540,000. Many people discuss the well costs to be in excess of this number but the fact is we do have note from the Division of Water Resources for $450,000 to be paid back at 3% interest for 23 years. The cost of the well was planned to be paid back with “recreational levy” (tourism tax) in the amount of $16,222 with rest of the money coming out of the reserve funds. The note will be paid off September 1, 2031.
The common thread with the pool and the well is they were both going to be paid for out of recreational tax monies. Last year Garfield County School District received approximately $118,000 from the recreational tax levy. Last year the majority of the money was spent to pay approximately $80,000 in coaching stipends in the district.
Additional costs for the well include utility bills. When the well is pumping water the costs range from $568.00 to $1,074 per month. When the well sits unused we pay a power demand charge of approximately $77.00 per month. We also pay $600.00 per year to the School Land Trust Fund to lease the property for the well.
So, you probably have more information on the well in Escalante than you would have liked but at least you know the facts associated with the project. Some people tell me to turn the well off in Escalante but that doesn’t solve the payment of the note. I know many people have put countless hours into the project, I do not want to demean their efforts in any way, I just want the common tax paying person to know where the funds are committed to be spent for the next several years.
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.- Winston Churchill
–Superintendent Ben Dalton