Blanding City talks water for Westwater
by David Boyle
Members of the Blanding City Council discussed the city landfill, learned of an airport grant and discussed the latest in the project to bring water to Westwater at their latest meeting.
At the September 12 meeting of the Blanding City Council, representatives from the state of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and the city of Blanding heard the latest on the project to bring running water to the residents of Westwater.
The 29 homesteads, located on 120 acres west of Blanding, was purchased by the Navajo Nation in 1986. Despite being owned by the Navajo Nation the land is located off reservation and therefore miles from existing tribal infrastructure.
Bringing utilities to the area has been a jurisdictional challenge but advocacy by Westwater residents over 30 years paid dividends last fall, when electricity arrived in Westwater on September 1, 2022.
Getting the infrastructure in place required coordination and cooperation between Blanding City, San Juan County, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) , the state of Utah, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other tribal and state entities.
As a result, Westwater residents can purchase electricity from NTUA as the utility authority purchases power from the city of Blanding.
While the arrival of electricity has been celebrated, those same entities have now been at work to bring water infrastructure to the Westwater community.
The setup will be similar to electricity in that Blanding City will provide water that NTUA will meter and deliver. However, adding additional water users to Blanding meant water rights needed to come with the community. As a result, the state of Utah used $3.5 million of its funds from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act to drill a deep water well located near the Blanding city water treatment plant, the state also provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to Blanding for a new water master plan. Additionally, the Navajo Nation has appropriated $5.5 million for the completion of the water connection project in Westwater.
Speaking at the meeting Jones & DeMille Engineering representative Scoot Flannery explained that construction of the well is complete.
The well goes down 1,913 feet and the project is currently waiting for test pumping to see the condition of the water. Depending on the results treatment will be available for the water on site.
At the meeting, those in attendance also heard the plans to deliver water to Westwater are underway. A line will be extended to the canyon rim and the edge of Blanding City property. Just like with the electricity utility, the town of Blanding will meter the usage down the line while NTUA will meter individual users to receive payment to then pay Blanding City for usage.
The construction of the water line and meter and slated to begin this fall
At the meeting members of the Blanding City Council also held a discussion related to the city landfill.
Mayor Logan Monson reported that about a month previous the employee that runs the city landfill had to leave temporarily. Monson reported however that the temporary leave may become permanent leading to a discussion on if the city should continue to maintain its landfill.
City finance director James Francom reported that operating the city landfill brings about $10,000 in revenue with an annual cost of about $18,000 for the service. Francom also reported that usage is often less than expected.
One city resident on the west side of town noted he’s seen a large increase of people head west out of town with trailers of trash, only to come back by his house a half-hour later with empty trailers, adding that people will dump out west of town regardless if there’s a transfer station or not.
In the discussion council members brought up price increases and availability of hours at the dump as possible factors. Mayor Monson recommended the council discuss the item again at the next city council.
“Maybe we get some more numbers, get a feel from people and see. Maybe bring it up again and discuss it more, I don’t think we’re in a rush to make a decision right now.”
At the meeting, Mayor Monson also announced the city had hired Patrick Parsons as the new city engineer. The city did not have an announcement about a new city manager at the September 12 meeting.
At the meeting, city employee Bret Hosler reported the city was able to get a $30,000 revitalization grant for the west terminal at the city airport.
The grant was awarded by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) division of Aeronautics. Hosler reported the funds will be used for projects at the facility including new flooring, sheetrock repairs, electrical repairs, and new furniture.