State restricts Virgin River water use to owners of pre-1901 rights; Public Meeting Notice

ST. GEORGE – A public meeting will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the offices of the Washington County Water Conservancy District pertaining to a priority call that State Engineer Kent Jones has made upon waters of the Virgin River and all associated tributaries from the headwaters to the Washington Fields diversion.

Among other things, the priority call letter prohibits all water users with a priority later than December 31, 1900, from diverting water from the Virgin River and all associated tributaries. This restriction extends to all users of water, the source of which could be construed as directly tributary to the flows of the Virgin River such as springs and seeps.

Public notice

What: Public Meeting
Who: Water Users on the Virgin River and Associated Tributaries Including: North Fork, North Creek, Ash Creek, La Verkin Creek, Quail Creek, Leeds Creek, Leap Creek, Toquerville Springs
When: July 15, 2014, 6:00 p.m.
Where: Washington County Water Conservancy District Offices
533 Waterworks Drive
St. George
Purpose: With this notice, the State Engineer is initiating a priority call on the Virgin River including all associated tributaries from the headwaters to the Washington Fields diversion which is the user which initiated the call. This letter is being sent to notify water users of the action and request your cooperation during this extraordinary period.

Due to extremely dry conditions over the last three years, the Virgin River and associated tributaries are experiencing significantly diminished flows. Utah law provides that appropriators have priority among themselves according to the dates of their respective appropriations, so that each appropriator is entitled to receive the appropriator’s whole supply before any subsequent appropriator has any right (Utah Code Section 73-3-21.1(2)).

The state engineer routinely operates distribution systems, including one on the Virgin River where a river commissioner maintains records and distributes water among the appropriators in accordance with their respective rights to carry out purposes of the statute.

Typically distributing water among the users on the main stem of the Virgin River has been adequate to accomplish priority distribution objectives, so the system does not include tributaries named in this letter. However, current circumstances have caused senior appropriators on the main stem of the Virgin to question if they are being impaired by junior users on unregulated tributaries and they are now calling for all water which is tributary to the Virgin River to be regulated by priority.

This is an extraordinary action which will require an immediate response to be effective.

See the state engineer’s letter, including description of how priorities are established and itemized priority schedule of water rights owners, here: July 7, 2014, Utah Engineer’s priority call on Virgin River water rights

The state engineer’s priority call specifically excludes Ash Creek above Ash Creek Reservoir in light of the stated opinion of the state engineer that current conditions calling water above the reservoir would be a futile call. It also excludes the East Fork above Zion National Park in that it is a separate distribution system operating under direction of the state engineer.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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