Carbon County Commissioners had a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s meeting about water and its impact on local economic growth.
Todd Thorne, Director of Building and Planning for Carbon County, provided some insight into the challenges facing the county. He said that his department is approached by many people and developers who want to buy water for new houses or commercial purposes.
Thorne explained that single-family home builders typically look for one water share, while developers often look for 10 to 20 shares. There are not many shares and most are not willing to sell their shares to newcomers.
Commissioner Larry Jensen said it’s a major impediment to economic development, especially in industry. He explained that there are about $9.5 million worth of projects that want to come to the area, but they are stuck with water rights.
This led to a debate over the allocation of county-owned stock to new developments. County Engineer Curtis Paige was asked to review how much stock the county has and what it is being used for in order to make an informed decision.
Paige explained that Carbon County owns 443.7 shares, with each share equaling one acre foot. The county uses its water for county-owned properties such as the fairgrounds and Gigliotti fish ponds, the Carbon Country Club Golf Course and fairgrounds, and the senior center.
Paige explained that after water is used in the aforementioned areas, the county still has 179 water shares that are not being used. With this information, commissioners discussed the possibility of allocating some of these shares to new development.
“I think it’s wise for us to look at it,” said Commissioner Tony Martinez. “I don’t think I would have the appetite to get rid of all the excess shares or the excess shares on offer, maybe some of them.”
The commissioners recently decided that 50 of these shares should be used to build new homes in the county. The use of those shares for commercial or industrial purposes was also discussed at the meeting held on Wednesday.
“The idea here is to get some once people come in,” Commissioner Jensen said. “We don’t see any other way to help with some of the growth that’s happening here to offset the tax burden that people are experiencing right now.”
A proposal was made to include 50 shares allocated to houses for commercial or industrial use. With the move, the county will now be able to use those 50 shares to help potential home builders, developers and businesses looking to build in Carbon County.
Ultimately, this would leave the county with 129 unused shares for future use or reallocation. The hope is that the newly allocated water shares will stimulate some of the stalled economic projects throughout the county.