Categories: Economic News

Local economic growth hindered by water

Carbon County Commissioners had a lengthy discussion about water and its effects on local economic growth during their meeting Wednesday evening.

Todd Thorne, Carbon County’s Director of Building and Planning, provided insight into the issues facing the county. He said his department is approached by many people and developers looking to buy water for new homes or for commercial purposes.

Thorne explained that homebuilders are looking to buy just one water share, while developers are often looking for 10 to 20 shares. There aren’t many shares available, and most are unwilling to sell their own shares to newcomers.

Commissioner Larry Jensen said this has been a major obstacle to economic development, especially with industry. He explained that there are approximately $9.5 million worth of projects that want to come to the area, but are hitting dead ends with water rights.

This led to a debate over the allocation of county property shares to new developments. Curtis Paige, county engineer, was asked to review how much stock the county has and what it is for so an informed decision can be made.

Paige explained that Carbon County owns 443.7 shares, each share equaling one acre foot. The county uses its water for the fairgrounds and Gigliotti Fish Ponds, the Carbon Country Club Golf Course and county-owned properties such as the fairgrounds ball fields and the senior center.

Paige explained that after the water is used in the aforementioned locations, the county still has 179 shares of water that are not being used. With this information, the commissioners discussed the possibility of allocating part of these actions to new housing developments.

“I think it’s prudent for us to look at this,” Commissioner Tony Martines said. “I don’t think I would want to get rid of all the excess shares or the proposed excess shares, but possibly some of them.”

Commissioners recently decided that 50 of those shares would go towards building new homes in the county. The discussion at Wednesday’s meeting was also to consider using these shares for commercial or industrial use.

“The idea here is to have some available as people came in,” Commissioner Jensen said. “We don’t see any other way to help get growth happening here to help offset the tax burden that our people are having now.”

A motion was made to include commercial or industrial use with the 50 shares that were earmarked for housing. With the motion, the county will now be able to use those 50 shares to help potential homebuilders, developers and businesses looking to build in Carbon County.

Ultimately, this will leave 129 unused shares held by the county for future use or reallocation. The hope is that the newly allocated water quotas will jump-start some of the stalled economic projects across the county.


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