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Wohali Development Builds Reservoir Without Any Water Rights To Fill It


The controversial Wohali Development in Coalville is building a water reservoir for the new community, even though they don’t have any water rights to fill it. 

The Wohali Development — located on the western side of Interstate 80, across the highway from downtown — needs water for the proposed golf course, 125 single-family homes and 303 nightly rentals.

The developers have nearly completed construction of a reservoir that will hold about 18 acre-feet of water. When they applied for a permit to build the reservoir, they listed Coalville City water rights.

Jim Boyden is a representative for the Wohali project. Speaking at Monday’s city council meeting, he said, listing Coalville’s water rights was just for temporary use on the application. 

“So even the state understands that the water right we put on there was a placeholder until such time as we could get a water right, tied to the source that we would be using as a diversion...the [Weber] river,” Boyden said. 

Boyden said the development can’t get their own water rights until they have a way to access water. 

“Once you do build a diversion structure, then the state will come and say, okay, here's the water right, associated with what you're impounding,” he said.

Louise Willoughby is with a local activist group called Coalville for Responsible Growth. She said any threat to Coalville’s water is a concern because water in the area is scarce. 

“And Coalville, I mean, we ran out of water this year again,” Willoughby said. “Coalville people are hot under the collar because we've been asked to shut our water off many years in the summer.”

Wohali’s water reservoir is built on the bottom of a hill. Willoughby said without any concrete water rights she’s concerned the development will be taking runoff water that would normally go to Coalville residents. 

“Can people just go build these big things at the bottom of a hill?" she asked. "Well when a runoff comes off, if you're collecting that water in reservoir or a dam that’s supposed to go down into the Weber River for the farmers and for an author, is that legal? If it's filled, it's supposed to be filled by water rights.”

Willoughby is also worried that Wohali will be using water from Icy Springs.

“Our Icy Springs is our freshwater and it is up there on the hill,” she said. “That is our fresh culinary water. And one of the things on there said that Icy Springs was a source.”

But City Attorney Sheldon Smith said that’s never been discussed. 

“I'm not aware that they have ever represented that they were going to take water out of Icy Springs,” Smith said. “That's something that I don't think they've ever suggested or said that they were going to do.”

Coalville has a contract with the Weber Basin Water District for 300 acres of water. 

Smith said the city hasn’t given Wohali any rights to that water. 

“They'll have to get their own water,” he said. “There's other water rights available out of the Weber River that Wohali can get. But wherever that comes on, that's up to them. That's not Coalville City's issue at all.”

Smith said Coalville can benefit from Wohali’s reservoir because the city doesn’t have any way to access the water from the Weber River. 

“It's going to help the people of Coalville because once Waholi gets the infrastructure and the pump house built to pump water out of the Weber river, that pump house can be utilized by Coalville City to put in their own pumps to pump water to wherever they need to in Coalville City,” he said.

It’s possible that in the future, the Coalville City Council could give Wohali authority to use water from the Weber River, but at this point, that hasn’t happened.


Jessica joins KPCW as a general assignment reporter and Sunday Weekend Edition host. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in English — concentrating in film studies — and journalism. Before moving to Utah, she spent time in Atlanta, GA.
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