All About Utah Department of Natural Resources
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All About Utah Department of Natural Resources

August 9, 2019


Hello everybody welcome to The
County Seat today I’m your host
Chad Booth every now and then we get
somebody that has so much
information packed into their head that we need to take
an entire half hour to talk to
him today is one of those shows but this is one that
you are going to stay through
all the way as there are things that touch your life
whether its oil and gas for your
home the water that comes out of your tap the
forests you hike in it all ties
in to the State Director Mike Styler of the Department of
Natural Resources, Mike thank
you for being with us today. Nice to be with you today, Chad. Let’s get into it you got 7
divisions within your
department. Yes, Water rights that the state
engineer he oversees all the
water rights in the state. Then the division of
water resources they coordinate
water rights on the Colorado River they help build
projects there is the division
of oil gas and mining they permit oil and gas drilling
they also permit coal mining and
they cover and take care of abandoned mines.
The Utah geological survey they
watch out and report on geological hazards
they do underground work looking
for faults they studies on underground water and
they are involved in energy and
wind power as well they also have state
paleontologist as a side note
our state paleontologist had probably found more new species
of dinosaurs than anyone in the
country. They do a great job we have wildlife
resources our biggest division.
Our next biggest division is state parks we have
division of forestry fire and
state lands and they are the guys that put out all the
fires. So let’s take few minutes and
delve into the departments there
are things that are on everybody’s mind and the
questions all tie back to
divisions within your department of natural resources
so I’m going to start with this
imp getting notices for my office property and my
house a bunch of summons and
notices and your name is on them and I think am I
in trouble over water rights
should I be claiming something. What is going on
here? That is an adjudication process
which is a process of the courts
and the state engineer is told by the courts
to do an adjudication a research
of all the water rights within an area. They are
doing an area right now which is
the Jordan River Salt Lake Valley area there are
over 30,000 water rights and
what they do they send notices to every titled property
owner and say do you have a
water right if you do let us know it’s not a gottcha
thing they just want to know do
you have a water right we have a lists of water
rights is our list up to date is
it correct if so we need verification from the property
owner. In response to that I have a
couple shares in a canal company
but I think the canal company is handling that. They would be. I sign up for city water that’s
not a water right, that’s water
use. That’s right. So who are the people that need
to take this seriously and
respond? Well everyone needs to take it
seriously but if you do not have
a diversion on your property out of a stream if you
do not have an old well that you
take water out of you probably do not have a water
right you probably get water
from you city or you may own shares in an irrigation
company that is what we want to
know if you do have a well if you use it for
supplemental irrigation on a big
yard come and tell us we have record of it we want to
make sure that we have
verification then when we compile all of these water
rights we take it to the judge
and say these are the water rights that we are aware of and
you need to validate those. If
you happen to have a water right and you don’t come
tell us the judge may validate
the list and leave yours off. So we don’t want
your water right left off the
list if you happen to have a valid water right. So while we are on the subject
of water water rights for no
water does not help much we have been in a really
serious drought you would not
know by last week’s rains. What is going on in the
water picture? In the last week our prayers
have been answered we have been
hoping for a long mild soft storm and that is what
this pattern has been but our
water year which has ended October 1st I read in the
paper this morning was the
driest year on record and I believe that it was a
horrible winter there was some
storm in the north basically nothing in the south.
I have a farm down in Delta Utah
and our reservoir started off the year at about
38% full it ended up a couple of
weeks ago 4% full we are just down to the bottom and
many reservoirs in the southern
end of the state are in the same situation. Where do you draw from? Yuba 4% not much water skiing going
on there now. No it’s pretty sad but the
storms look pretty promising
right now. Hopefully the weather pattern will change this
year. So is it water resources that
tries to make the most out of
drought vs. times of plenty. Yes, water resources do the slow
the flow program they encourage
water conservation they are the folks
that lend money to irrigation
companies that want to line their canals and get
what water they have to the end
of the ditch. I paid for all the mining in my
ditch by myself. I did not know
it was there. Come and make and application
and low interest loans they also
pay for dam repair we do dam safety and inspect all
the dams in the state. We do
not want another Orrville. We put literally
millions of dollars a year into
refurbishing dams. Great we are going to take a
quick break here we will be
right back with The County Seat our conversation with Mike
Styler Director of DNR. This is
a great conversation. Welcome back to The County Seat
we are talking to Mike Styler
who is the head of the department of Natural
Resources for the state of Utah
we have covered water now let’s turn to fire because
the 2 of them do not mix. Been
a really rugged fire season and people think the
forest is the forest but most of
these have been federal forest fires but they
have involved state lands how is
the state on their forests managing and how are you
trying to keep ahead of those
fires. There have been complaints from lots of
county leaders not enough road
because of the Roadless initiative we have too
much deadwood how does the state
manage the forests. Well unfortunately the state
does not have any forests but
what we do we help communities manage when they are
in the urban interface with the
forests we go in and do a lot of work to fire
proof communities and homes and
then we have a couple of hot shot teams that
when there are fires are called
out and often our fire teams they are nomadic they
start in the south where the
fires might start and they follow the fires from state to
state and then get to Utah about
the time the fires break out here and then end up
in California or Montana and we
have some really great and dedicated fire
fighters but we work with the
forest service on prescribed burns we council with them when
they want to do a prescribed
burn we are brought in and part of the team
and sometimes there are
differences of opinions this year we had a very unusual
year when some prescribed fires
got away we had some managed burns that were on
forest service property where
the forest service said this fire is doing a lot of
good let’s let it burn and then
a red flag situation came up and the red flag situation
allowed for the fire to get
away. It may be of interest to know on both a prescribed
fire and a managed burn if the
forest service has made the call that we want to
let the fire go then if it
happens to get away all the costs put in that fire are
forest service costs. Now there
are secondary costs like if it messes up a communities water
shed if it impacts their water
of course the community has that costs. The
costs of air quality everyone
puts up with that we have had a pretty good
relationship with the forest
service and in most cases they listen to us if we way the time
has come to put out that fire
they do and they are even several prescribed fires
they were looking at in northern
Utah at the end of the fire season and we said
please do not do those the fuel
moisture is so low we wish you would not and they
listen to us and they did not do
those prescribed fires. Excellent now we have a
reclamation problem on your
hands. Is that something the state has to involve in? Yes. Absolutely and we partner
with the BLM and the forest
service in reseeding those areas. I met with the
Governor’s office this week and
gave them what we believe our share of fighting
the fire deal is and the number
I shared with Kristin Cox and The Lieutenant Governor
was 19.6 million dollars but of
that 19.6, 6.2 million is going to go for seed
and we are geared up and ready
to start getting seat on as fast as we can and in fact
we like to put seed on snow so
on some of these areas we will be flying in seed
right on top of the snow. That works? Yes that works very well. The
other out in Box Elder County
where more of a low altitude area where we really
need to draw a chain across the
seed and we will be doing that in those lower BLM
areas but in the higher areas it
works great to put the seed right on the snow. Okay while we are on the subject
of reclamation let’s move onto
to oil and gas mines. They are kind of in
competition with BLM on the
permitting side yet there is always that comparison why can’t
we get an oil drilling permit on
state land in 60 days and it takes 5 years with
federal blm but on the
reclamation side you are across the board explain that. We have an agreement with the
coal mining interests and with
the bureau of mines that we have primacy over
permitting coal mines so when
the coal mine shuts down we will do the reclamation
of course the mines sign a bond
they end up paying for the costs of it but
we contract and help do all of
the reclamation after a big mining coal mining project
or a hard rock mining effort we
will go out and if need be call on the bond and
reclaim that I been out on the
west desert and have seen areas that were reseeded
and the seed did not take so
they we asked the mine company to reseed again and
finally after about 2 or 3 times
it looks really good where the reseeding has
been done. Alton coal mine they have some
areas that they are finished
with that they have reclaimed have you been back on
some of that reclaimed land? In fact, the Alton coal mine is
right in the middle of a sage
grouse area and I am confident with the reclaimed
reclamation that has been done
there the sage grouse will move right behind the scar
of the mind and pick up right
where they left off and it will be a better sage
grouse habitat because of the
reclamation. Isn’t it true that reclamation
always works a little bit
better? We are creating sage grouse
habitat where there has been
intrusions of Juniper and Pinion especially up in Box
Elder county we have Utah state
collaring hundreds of sage grouse and their
monitoring sage grouse that are
moving into areas that we have reclaimed and nesting there
in places that they were
historically not sage grouse breed areas. Excellent we have to take
another quick break and continue
our conversation with Mike Styler from the Dpt. Of
Natural Resources when we come
back on the County Seat. Welcome back to The County Seat
we are talking with Mike Styler
from the Dpt. Of Natural Resources with 7
divisions under him we have
covered a lot of them and we have a few to go in just a
few minutes so let’s move on. I
want to talk about the geological survey because they
have been playing a big role in
development of thermal energy what has been
going on there? Down in the Millford area the
federal government has been
looking for a good geothermal site to do some
experimentation on so our folks
went down there and did a lot of studies course we
have the Glendale geothermal
plant already in existence but they have this
idea if they go down into the
hot rocks about 7 or 8 thousand feet down and utilize
the new technology that has been
utilized in the oil and gas industry which is
fracking what if we went down
and fracked those hot rocks and we drill a well and we
inject water and let it go
through that cracked rock and then provide another well
site for it to come up so you
take that water down it flashed to steam and it comes up
the other well you run your
turbines you condense the water and then you
run back down and have a closed
loop it’s almost like perpetual motion. This
could be great in changing the
energy outlook. Not just talking about doing the
seismic research to find the
rocks, right? Right. They have the right kind
of rock in there and the thing I
like about it will be a closed system it won’t take a
lot of water to create the
energy it will be a closed loop there will be some loss but
it will not take near as much
water as a coal fired power plant or a natural gas
fired power plant it will be a
returning cycle of heated steam. How many geothermal areas in the
state that we can tap for
something like that. Well that geothermal down around
Milford runs from Milford to
Delta. That’s big. It’s a huge area there are other
areas in the state but our Utah
beat out a similar area over in Fallon Nevada so we
are going to be recipients of
about 140 million dollar grant going through the
University of Utah to do
research on the geothermal potential in Utah. Excellent alright while we are
out in that part of the state
lets touch on Snake Valley water. That is one of my favorite
things as a young county
commissioner in 1989 I signed protests against southern valley
water filing on the water in
snake valley I was afraid it would damage Millard
county where I was a county
commissioner. I have been involved with this since
1989 one of the great things
legislature did they appropriated over 2 million
dollars which geological survey
has gone out and drilled a series of 22 well they are
monitoring wells and springs out
in snake valley to see what is happening right now with
the current usage of water. I
can tell you the water tables are going down and
southern Nevada water has not
even entered into the picture we are already
using more water on our ranches
and in our homes out in snake valley than is
available. How are we going to fix that? The locals want to do is get the
state engineer to start a water
management plan and start limiting the use of
water in the snake valley. Okay we need to talk about
watershed restoration or we can
talk about yurts in the state part. Those are my 2 favorite
children. Our state parks are
doing great our visitation is increasing by double digits
every year we are planning on
investing 19 million dollars of the money that we
have earned at state parks next
year to make them better. People want to bring
their motorhomes they want water
power and they want wifi we are going to try
and make them all available. My
favorite thing that we do in the state is improve
water sheds. We have a great
set of partners with BLM, forest service, sportsman
groups and counties we go out
reseed, replant the landscape into what should be
growing there and we want
healthy landscapes. We have touched on this for an
entire half hour but that makes
a significant change in ground water if you can get
all those straws out of the
ground. Absolutely remember the pinion
and juniper and getting and
aspen stand growing the aspen put 30 to 40 percent
more water into the ground than
pinion juniper which pump water out of the soil
365 days a year and they kill
off all the undergrowth. Okay you can go back to parks
for one more minute, let’s talk
about trail system for a second and finish the show on
that. How active are we trying
to make that off road expertise better in Utah? As you know we have folks
dedicated to trails and parks
not only for safety training getting our young people out
safely on the trails teaching
them how to use off road vehicles but we are maintain a
list of the trails that are
there that is an online list people can get access to to know
where can I go ride where is a
good safe place at which level of expertise and I
think you have some new
information that area that will help us to encourage people
to be out having more
experiences more times. There you go thanks for the plug
that will be with At Your
Leisure just keep watching this week. Mike thank
you so much for taking the time
appreciate it. Thank you for tuning in remember
local government is where your
life happens these issues that happen with
DNR are probably the closest
interface with our counties and we will see you
next week on The County Seat.

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