NRCS holds open house for proposed water project

Shawn Follum with the Natural Resources Conservation Service speaks during an open house last month concerning a local water project. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — The U. S. Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) held a public open house at the Roundhouse on Aug. 19, to solicit public comments and identify any concerns regarding the proposed Bear River and Yellow Creek Watershed Project. Those interested in the project are asked to submit comment by Sept. 18.

Conducting the open house were representatives for the project: Shawn Follum, NRCS; Josh King, the Langdon Group; Autumn Foushee and Brian Deeter, JUB Engineers; Dean Barker, Evanston Director of Engineering and Planning; and Mike Davis, Evanston Water Ditch, Inc.

The USDA-NRCS is proposing an improvement project within the city and portions of Uinta County. The project will be sponsored by the city and Evanston Water Ditch Inc. (EWD) to address water conservation and irrigation supply, flood prevention, public safety, and to provide public recreation opportunities. Federal funds will be used to support the completion of the project through the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act.

Attendees received a flyer with the project overview. The proposed project includes piping and pressurizing the EWD canal; installing two detention basins and flood control projects to separate flood waters from the irrigation canal system; constructing four soccer fields in one detention basin (near the school district bus barn); and building a recreation trail system along the piped canal.

Large posters with information about the project were displayed on easels around the interior of the roundhouse where various representatives involved in the project stood nearby to answer questions and hear comments. A table was set up to give community residents the opportunity to leave written comments. Approximately 35 residents were in attendance, most from the Uinta Meadows subdivision.

One of the posters displayed a map of the area that was included in the proposed improvement project. The map pointed out the proposed four soccer fields near the bus barn and the trail system extending behind Uinta Meadows subdivision. A black line on the map showed the canal coming from the Bear River to the State Hospital running under Hwy. 150 and down behind the subdivision and on out to the Yellow Creek ranches and area. 

Another poster gave a timeline for the project to outline an environmental assessment completed from the summer of 2020 to spring of 2022. Project design is projected to extend from spring 2022 to fall 2022, with construction projected to begin fall 2022 and end spring 2024.

After allowing significant time for attendees to view the posters and discuss any comments directly with the representatives, Barker addressed the participants and asked for any public questions.

A variety of questions were related to how the project would affect property values, access to water for property owners and why tree removal was necessary around the canal near Uinta Meadows houses. Comments were also made about a lack of flooding in Evanston as many saw no need to control the water in the canal.

Davis responded to concerns. “Over the years, EWD and the City have spent over $50,000 due to problems of flooding and cleaning debris and root balls out of the canal,” he said. “We do have flooding yearly at Grass Valley. The root balls of the trees are huge and when we get storm and wastewater runoff in the canal it causes flooding. The school district, land owners, the State Hospital and the Ditch Company members all use and need the water.”

Davis suggested that existing trees could be replaced with trees that are more drought tolerant than cottonwoods and willows, which have created the huge root balls in the canal.

Deeter told participants that the flood control components of the project are eligible to be funded 75% by Federal grants. The soccer fields and trail system are eligible to be funded at a 50 -50 split between federal funds and funds from the school district and city.

Autumn Foushee of JUB Engineers addressed the audience. “Written comments can be submitted today or via email or postal mail until Sept. 18, 2020,” She said. “Questions or comments can be emailed to [email protected] or you can call 847-327-0229. Thank you for coming and I hope we have answered many of your questions.”

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