What will happen to the trees and other vegetation once the pipelines are installed?
Due to construction and the eventual dewatering of the existing canal channels, habitat changes, including the loss of trees and other vegetation, will occur. Because the project accepted federal funding, assumed habitat losses were mitigated by entering into a long-term conservation easement with a private landowner along the Green River and enhancing wildlife habitat values on that site. It is likely, however, that mature trees along the canals will find other sources of groundwater, but if landowners want to ensure any tree’s survival, alternate methods of irrigation should be used.
Why are the canal companies installing the pipeline?
The pipeline project is needed to improve the operation, maintenance, and water delivery efficiencies of the Ashley Upper and Highline Canals. Stated purposes of the project include:
- Eliminate water losses due to seepage and evaporation.
- Increase operational efficiencies.
- Meet water delivery obligations to company shareholders.
- Reduce canal maintenance.
- Address urban encroachments along the canal easements.
- Improve public safety by eliminating open water channels.
- Make canal channels available for flood control during heavy storm events.
What is a prescriptive easement?
According to the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman, Utah Department of Commerce, “A prescriptive easement is created when a person uses another person’s property (even though the use was not expressly agreed to) for a prolonged period. Prescriptive easements recognize long-standing usage, especially if the use was relied upon for the enjoyment of property. To establish a prescriptive easement, the use must be:
- Open, or used in such a way that the property owner would be aware that the property is being used.
- Notorious, or used in such a way that the general public would be aware that the property is being used.
- Adverse to the owner’s interest, or without permission or approval from the property owner.
- Continuously used for at least 20 years.”
The rights associated with operating and maintaining (including piping) the irrigation canals enjoyed by the Ashley Upper Irrigation Company and the Highline Canal Company were established through prescription.
Why is the federal government involved in this project?
To meet treaty obligations with Mexico in reference to dissolved salts in the Colorado River, to mitigate the impacts of salt-laden water to hydropower generating facilities along the Colorado River such as Glen Canyon Dam (Lake Powell), and to improve water quality for Lower Colorado River Basin water users such as California farmers, the federal government has made funding available throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin to control salt-loading into the Colorado River and its tributaries by improving off-farm conveyance channels and on-farm irrigation systems. The Uintah Basin has been the benefactor of these programs for several decades, most notably, the installation of improved wheeline and pivot irrigation systems through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Ashley Upper and Highline Canals Rehabilitation Project successfully applied for funding through a salinity control program administered by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. With the federal government as a project sponsor and funding partner, the project has been subjected to familiar requirements, such as compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
What is the project schedule?
The project is scheduled to begin in mid to late September 2020. Construction will continue throughout the winter, weather permitting. When the irrigation season begins in April 2021, construction will be halted until the canals are once again dry. It is anticipated that the project will be substantially complete by Spring 2022.
Are property taxes being used to fund the project?
No. Putting together a funding package for these large projects is always a challenge. Many different sources of funding have come together to make this project a reality, but no property taxes are being used. Outside of several grants, and the lease of the abandoned canal channels for flood control, all funding for the project will be repaid through assessments to the canal shareholders.
Who can I talk to about impacts to my property?
I have heard that the abandoned canal channels will be used for flood control. Who has responsibility for the canals once the pipeline has been installed?
Currently, the Uintah Water Conservancy District holds a 100-year lease to use the canal easements for flood control. Funding to lease the easements was provided by the Community Impact Board (CIB). The District has also acquired funding to reshape the channels to better handle intense summer storm events. Upon project completion, Uintah County has agreed to sublease the easements and maintain the flood control system.
Will the pipeline be opporational if not completed? or What will happen if the water season comes and the pipe is not all the way in?
The section of pipe that is installed before the water season or water starts down the pipe will be operational”
How will my water be delivered?
Water will be delivered in the same location and in the same manner as it has historically been. Turnouts from the pipelines will be sized and constructed in such a way that individual water users and laterals will not need to make any changes to accept their water. For example, if your water is delivered to your property in an existing open ditch, your water will pass from the pipeline into an energy dissipation structure, and overflow into this same ditch.
May I move my connection?
In consultation with the canal companies and the project design engineers, you may elect to move your connection. However, the pipeline has been sized to deliver a set range of flows in each section, so there are limitations to your ability to move your connection. Also, please remember that if you do move your connection, it is your responsibility to move your water to its place of use. Requests to move connections are due to the project design engineers by October 1, 2020.
May I have more than one connection?
The canal companies will install and maintain one connection per shareholder or lateral. If you desire additional connections, a set price has been determined based on connection size that you will need to pay. Please remember that the new pipelines have limited capacity, so not all requests can be accommodated. Requests to install additional or new connections are due to the project design engineers by October 1, 2020.
If I elect to connect my pressurized irrigation system directly to the pipeline, do I need to worry about excessive pressures?
Yes. When fully enclosed, the new pipelines will generate a range of pressures depending on location. If you connect directly to the pipeline, you may experience pressure increases by as much as 40 psi. If your system was not designed to handle such pressures (canal pipeline pressure + private pipeline pressure), you may see leaks, blowouts, and other failures. You can either install pressure mitigating devices such as pressure-reducing valves, or you can continue to accept water into your system as you currently do without making a direct connection.
Will laterals be piped as part of the current project?
No, the focus of the project is to enclose the main canal channels.
What kind of property disturbance can I expect as the pipelines are installed?
BHI and the canal companies are committed to complete the project with as little property disturbance as possible. However, the very nature of the project, and the type of equipment necessary to install large diameter HDPE pipelines, will be disruptive. This is especially true for those landowners who have encroached upon the canal easements to construct outbuildings and develop their landscaping. If you are concerned about the preservation of any property features (buildings, retaining walls, fences, etc.) please call as soon as possible and arrange a site visit with the contractor and design engineers.
Where will the pipelines be buried?
This varies, but most of the pipe will be buried within the east bank of the existing canals.
Will the water be metered?
Yes. To enjoy the efficiencies imagined by the project sponsors, all water going in and out of the pipelines will be measured. This is especially important as the Ashley Upper and Highline Canals will be interconnected and essentially function as one system. To ensure that all deliveries are correct and made according to existing water rights, all diversions will be metered and recorded.
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