Calle Puentes resident Floyd Dean stands at the City of Moab's preferred site for a new water tank project with a pole that represents one end of the proposed tank near his property. Dean and his wife Saxon Sharpe, who stood off at the opposite end beyond the camera's reach, say that two large homes could easily fit within the proposed 2.5-million-gallon tank's footprint. City officials say the concrete tank would be built in line with geological standards, and they say they're confident that they can address the couple's concerns about the site's proximity to their home. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

The Moab City Council, at a meeting on Tuesday, July 14, gave unanimous approval for a proposed water tank storage site location on the southeast corner of Spanish Valley Drive and Spanish Trail Road.

The proposed location for the 2.5-million-gallon tank has raised the ire of a few neighboring residents, but city officials say that the 3.2 acre, city owned parcel, is the best of three alternative sites for developing a much needed, additional water storage facility.

Mayor for the City of Moab, Dave Sakrison praised the council’s decision and said the tank would be a good thing for Moab. He said he was confident that concerns raised by local residents could be effectively mitigated.

“I think we did our due diligence on this, no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” Sakrison said. “We need additional storage and this is going to provide a backup.

But area residents Floyd Dean, and Saxon Sharpe, who own a home adjacent to the proposed location, urged the council to table the discussion to allow time for further study and more public input.

“A water tank, complete with berms, fencing, lights and access road in the middle of 25 existing homes is inappropriate, particularly because several other appropriate sites exist,” Sharpe told the council. “I don’t believe that putting a water tank, or two at a future date, is the best use of a flat, prime lot in an established residential neighborhood.”

Dean raised concerns about safety and containment in the event of a catastrophe.

“When water escapes on the surface, it’s not going to go where humans want it to go, it’s going to follow the natural surface.” Dean told the Moab Sun News. “The first house it’s going to take is mine.”

The Utah Division of Drinking Water, which sets culinary water storage requirements, has identified a nearly 1.0 million gallon deficit in Moab’s storage system based on the current population. The city currently has 3.0 million gallons of storage capacity in its three existing water tanks. City officials want to construct a new, 2.5 million gallon tank to make up for the deficit, allow for emergency storage, and to ensure adequate flow for fire suppression.

Three sites for the storage tank have been identified including Site A, near an existing water tank above the Mountain View Subdivision; and Site B which is also near an existing water tank on Power House Lane.

Engineer Steven Jones, from the firm Hansen, Allen, and Luce, presented an analysis of the pros and cons of each of the proposed sites. The criteria included cost, land ownership, ease of connectivity to transmission lines as well as geographic location with respect to source and gravity flow.

“I don’t have a preconceived notion of whether you need a tank, or where it should be,” Jones told the council. “But I would not disagree with the city wanting more (water storage).”

Though all three sites carry a price tag of around $3 million, the Spanish Valley location is preferred because the city already owns the property, and it is closest to the source and the main transmission line.

Jones also presented artist renderings of the project proposal. The majority of the 20-foot-high tank would be buried underground with a maximum of seven feet exposed on the upper end, and as little as one foot on the lower end of the grade. The entire site would be surrounded by a berm and swale – to serve as a catchment basin and visual barrier – and would be landscaped with native vegetation including Utah Juniper trees.

Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson said at the meeting, that the city had carefully evaluated all of the potential sites, and that they had taken public comment into account before recommending this location.

“What we are trying to accomplish with this site, is to achieve everything we can to the best of our abilities,” she said.

Grand County resident Bill Love questioned the need for additional storage based on his interpretation of the state’s figures and also questioned if available water to fill the tank even existed. He urged the council to hold off on making decision until groundwater studies for the area are completed.

Council member Kirsten Peterson, who made the motion to approve the location said that this was only the first step in the process and that there would be many more opportunities for evaluation.

Peterson told the Moab Sun News that after weighing the pros and cons of the three available sites, that the Spanish Valley location provided the greatest benefit.

“In this location we will be able to bury most of the tank which limits the impacts on the surrounding area and makes it a safer tank plus the elevation works better within the existing infrastructure system that is already in place,” Peterson said. “ Looking forward 50 years and more, this location and the opportunity for an additional tank makes a lot of sense to me.”

After council approval, the next step will be for the city to apply for a special use permit which will go before before planning and zoning. The issue will then come up for public comment and ultimately, the final decision will rest with the Grand County Council.

Sharpe said that she was “disappointed but not surprised” at the council’s decision.

“We will continue to argue that this project is not compatible with a developed neighborhood, especially when two other sites are available that are completely undeveloped,” she said.

Neighboring residents vow to fight decision

“I think we did our due diligence on this, no ifs, ands or buts about it. We need additional water storage and this is going to provide a backup.”

“A water tank, complete with berms, fencing, lights and access road in the middle of 25 existing homes is inappropriate, particularly because several other appropriate sites exist.”