County Commission hears BLM reports

Amber Johnson, Acting Field Manager for the Monticello office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), provided a lengthy update to the San Juan County Commission on January 7 about local activities of the federal land agency.

The report included a discussion of the anticipated Record of Decision on Bears Ears National Monument. It will establish the monument management plan.

Other topics include a discussion of the Cedar Mesa Business Plan, an update on oil and gas leasing, and agency efforts at Goosenecks State Park, Recapture Canyon, and Canyon Rims.

Commissioner Willie Grayeyes asked a series of questions regarding law enforcement, staffing, BLM involvement with tribal entities, and the need to seek input from the residents of southern communities.

Johnson said that the House on Fire ruin is the most popular day hike in Bears Ears National Monument.

Johnson reports that after concerns were expressed by Bluff-area residents, the BLM completed further analysis about the impact of a proposed oil and gas project on the ground water in Bluff.

Johnson said that the study showed that there is no impact on the groundwater in Bluff.  The study investigated the current status of the underground aquifer near Bluff and estimated that it would take approximately 10,000 years to impact the Bluff aquifer, which is five to eight miles from the proposed drilling site.

Johnson said the report said that it is “very unlikely that there would be any impact.”

Grayeyes suggested contamination would move faster.

Johnson said 19 parcels proposed for oil and gas leases in the area have been put on hold for further analysis.

Johnson outlined a series of staffing changes that have recently taken place. They are outlined in an accompanying article. Field Manager Gary Torres is on a temporary four-month assignment in Washington, DC.

Johnson was accompanied by two assistant field managers, including Angela Bulla, who coordinates resources, and Jake Palma, who coordinates efforts in Bears Ears National Monument.

In other matters at the January 7 meeting, Commissioners will go on the road again in 2020 after they adopted a meeting schedule.

In addition to the regular meetings in Monticello, generally on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, the schedule has five meetings in area communities.  

Commissioners will meet in Navajo Mountain on January 21, in Mexican Water on March 17, in Spanish Valley on May 19, in Aneth on July 21, and in Mexican Hat on September 15.

Hank Stevens was the only public comment at the Commission meeting.  Stevens serves as the president of the Navajo Mountain Chapter. Stevens discussed community development and road development efforts.

Tammy Gallegos discussed three topics with the Commission, including an emergency preparedness grant, a contract amendment to the aging budget, and a letter of thanks.

Gallegos serves as the emergency manager and aging director for the county.

The county is pursing an emergency preparedness grant to deal with hazardous materials. It would include issues related to the pipelines, long haul trucking, and uranium processing that takes place in the county.

The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) will coordinate the efforts.

The contract was adjusted between the county and the Utah Department of Human Services for aging waivers.  The new budget is approaching $150,000.

Commissioners approved a letter of thanks to Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services.  During a site visit to San Juan County, employees of the Salt Lake County office initiated a service project for San Juan County residents.  A total of 14 large baskets of materials and supplies were donated as part of the effort.

Commissioners approved the reappointment of three members of the Grand Water and Sewer Service District board, including Brian Backus, Jerry McNeely, and Preston Paxman. 

Commissioners approved beer license renewals for eight businesses, including the Halls Crossing store and marina, La Sal Store, 7-11 in Mexican Hat, Shirt Tail Service, Sunrise Convenience Store, San Juan Trading Post, The Juan, and Valles Trading Post.

Commission Chairman Kenneth Maryboy said the Aneth Chapter was concerned about a beer license in Montezuma Creek. The concern is the store may be too close to schools.

Commissioner Adams said the license should not be approved if it violates state law, but suggested it is a distance from the schools.

Commissioner Grayeyes said the store is a mile from the schools, while Adams said state law is 200 feet.

Commissioners approved the licenses on a 2-0 vote, with Maryboy abstaining.

Commissioners approved their specific assignments for the year to be the same as 2019.  In addition, Commissioner Adams will serve on the Utah Association of Counties board.

San Juan Record

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