As Moab continues to grow, the city will need to expand its water storage facilities to accommodate more visitors and residents.
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said that city officials have identified a 3.23-acre lot on the southeast corner of the Spanish Valley Drive and Spanish Trail Road intersection as the best place for a 2.5-million-gallon concrete water tank that can meet the city’s future needs.
“This is going to carry us through for the next 25 to 30 years,” Sakrison said.
“You can’t have enough water in the desert,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have adequate supplies.”
The Moab City Council originally planned to consider the tank project at its second meeting of June. However, Sakrison said the matter has since been continued to its first meeting next month on Tuesday, July 14, in response to concerns from Floyd Dean.
The Calle Puentes Road resident urged Grand County Council members this week to ask their city counterparts to hold off on any votes to proceed with the project, which is expected to take two or three years to complete.
“This thing is being rushed through, and nobody knows a whole lot about it,” Dean told the Moab Sun News.
Dean said the massive tank would be big enough to contain his house, as well as his neighbor’s house, and he said he’s especially concerned about what could happen in the event of a catastrophic emergency.
“When water escapes on the surface, it’s not going to go where humans want it to go,” he said. “It’s going to follow the natural surface.”
There’s a six-foot wall on Dean’s property, but under the worst case scenario, he’s concerned that if the entire tank fails, water would quickly would erode the barrier away and then rush past everything in its way.
“The first house it’s going to take out is mine,” he said.
Sakrison said the city will use the additional time to review the issues that Dean has raised.
“I think that we can adequately address all of his concerns,” he said.
The site at the corner of Spanish Valley Drive and Spanish Trail Road is one of three possible locations that city officials originally considered for the project.
Project costs turned out to be the biggest factor in the final location’s favor. According to Sakrison, the gravity-fed system would be cheaper to build and operate.
“It’s at the head of our system to begin with,” he said. “Everything goes downhill from that point.”
Dean said he only found out about the city’s plans on Tuesday, June 9, and he said he believes that officials are moving too fast.
“Very few people in this county know what’s going on at that particular corner,” he said.
Both Dean and Sakrison agree that city officials attempted to contact eight nearby property owners, but only reached four of them.
“The other people did not return our calls or respond to our letters, but we did reach out to them,” Sakrison said.
Moving forward, Dean thinks the city should step up its public outreach efforts.
“I don’t think that it’s received the notice or the input that it deserves,” he said.
According to the mayor, the proposal has not generated much in the way of controversy to date. Sakrison said the city has not received critical feedback from anyone other than Dean and Calle Puentes Road resident Saxon Sharpe.
“None of the other property owners seem to have a problem with it – the ones we’ve talked to,” Sakrison said.
Both Dean and Sharpe have called attention to infrastructure-related accidents that have occurred in other parts of the U.S., including Salt Lake County, where a massive rock slide destroyed property last summer.
“My concern (has to do with) what we’re seeing around the country with the failure of municipal infrastructure,” Dean said.
“How many events have you seen on national TV of infrastructure failing and creating sinkholes?” he asked.
Sakrison said the city plans to build berms that would control any water that might rush out of the tank, following an accident or disaster. He said the city’s proposal to build a concrete tank has to do with the fact that it’s safer than a potentially corrosive metal tank would be.
“Because you don’t have any deterioration, for one thing,” the mayor said. “Concrete tanks have been in the ground for a lot of years, more so than metal tanks.”
City officials also want to be prepared for the possibility of any natural disasters that could affect the tank, he said.
“The city has asked the engineer to make sure that the tank is earthquake-proof,” he said. “It’s going to be built to geological standards.”
Aside from the safety issue, Dean also wants to clarify who owns the land in question.
Sakrison maintains that the city has owned the property since 1957, and he said it was set aside for Moab’s future needs. The water tank is one such need, he said.
According to the mayor, the city plans to deed the remainder of its property on the west side of the road to the cemetery district.
Dean, however, said the property was granted to the county’s cemetery district with the understanding that the district might make use of the land some day, and he referred to the city’s plans for the property as a “land grab.”
In response to Dean’s concerns, Grand County Council member Mary Mullen McGann said that cemetery sexton Robert Buckingham is looking into the ownership issue.
“It’s a bit complicated,” she said.
As she understands the situation, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) deeded the land to the district, but if nothing happened within 25 years, the land would go to the city.
According to McGann, that 25-year period has already come and gone.
“If they own it, they do have the right,” she said.
McGann has asked Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald to keep her apprised of his legal review of the situation. If necessary, she said she plans to ask the city council to take more time to review the issues that Dean has raised.
Dean said he empathizes with the city’s plans to increase its water storage capacity, and believes that officials are facing pressure from state regulators to expand their system.
“I think they’re under the gun,” he said. “I think they have a huge time constraint.”
But he urges them to consider another location for the tank, including one nearby spot on elevated, city-owned property that would drain into Pack Creek.
“When a decision is made to use a piece of land, it doesn’t mean it’s the best use of the land,” Dean said.
Council plans to review 2.5-million-gallon tank project next month