Santa Clara City Council tables purchase of additional water rights, secondary irrigation fees

ST. GEORGE — After months of deliberation, the Santa Clara City Council declined to set secondary irrigation rates for additional water rights previously purchased during a meeting Wednesday.

Santa Clara City Hall, Santa Clara, Utah, Nov. 13, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

The City Council and Santa Clara Canal Company have collaborated over a number of months to purchase water rights that would provide secondary water to the residents in Rhone Subdivision, a newly constructed housing development.

Ultimately, the city purchased seven water rights at $4,500 each for a total of $31,500. The water rates decision, included in Resolution 2019-15R, was tabled in the meeting Wednesday.

The resolution includes the council’s decision to charge a connection fee of 7 cents per square foot of each lot in order to recover the cost of the water shares. The meter connection fee is consistent with the latest one-foot meter at $423, which also covers the cost of labor.

Santa Clara Canal Company approached the city after an attempt to grant reduced impact fees to Rhone Subdivision, Public Works Director Jack Taylor said. The company was unable to do so because the Water Conservancy District does not allow reduced impact fees for water rights not owned by the city.

The Santa Clara City Council discusses a resolution to set secondary irrigation rates for additional water rights it purchased, Santa Clara, Utah, Nov. 13, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

“The people that own those water rights could possibly sell those water rights and then they would be with the reduction of the impact fee and the district would still have to provide the service,” Taylor told the council.

He said this change is possibly because the canal company is realizing that they could lose their water if they don’t use more of it. Their desire, he said, is to put the water in the city’s hands down the road so the state doesn’t claim ownership of those rights.

The canal company worked to try to allow lot owners to purchase water rights but were ultimately unable to do so, approaching the City Council, Taylor said. The council agreed to work with the company to purchase water rights for the subdivision. However, the decision requires a set connection fee, meter connection fee, monthly meter reading fee, annual renewal and replacement of system fee, maximum allotment as well as a council vote.
“The canal company has been great to work with us on this,” Taylor said. “We purchased those rights and if we need more, as other developments might come, the developer can sell us or give us those rights then the people in that development wouldn’t have to pay that much for a connection fee.”

The council analyzed the yearly usage fee of $175 for water over the last five years and determined a base rate of $16.67 per month for meter reading, renewal and system replacement. The cost per year will be $25 higher than the canal company for renewal and replacement of system and meter equipment, which is $200 each year.

Santa Clara City Hall, Santa Clara, Utah, Nov. 13, 2019 | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

Santa Clara’s city council also approved the maximum allotment of water per lot as 16.2 gallons per square foot each year, which Taylor said “is a lot more water than they should ever use.” For every 1,000 gallons used after the maximum, the secondary water rate would be $1.68.

These costs, Taylor said, would average the peaks and valleys of the Water Conservancy District over time, allowing residents to maintain a consistent cost for water no matter what the district is charging that year.

Just before the council was set to vote, Councilman-elect Denny Drake approached the podium with a question of whether this decision was a proper investment. A decision in 2006 committed all water shares to the city of St. George over 50 years following the installation of the pressurized water system.

“I would hate to purchase shares and then lose the shares not knowing that,” Drake said.

Members of the council decided to table the decision in light of the new information.

The council plans to revisit the resolution in its following meeting on Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. The resolution would go into effect immediately following its approval.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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