Wasatch County School District Releases Engineering Studies
Late last week, the Wasatch County School District released the controversial Bio West Engineering wetlands report for the 63-acres of property it purchased for a new high school. The release of the report to the public was done in conjunction with a second study approved by the Army Corp of Engineers.
In January, the Wasatch Taxpayers Association requested the release of the results of a Bio West Engineering wetlands delineation study on the property the school district purchased last year. That request was denied by the school board. The State Records Committee overruled the board, in favor of releasing the study to the public. However, the school board took legal action to withhold the Bio West study until a second study – done by CRS Engineering - could be completed and approved by the Army Corp of Engineers. This study was released last week along with the partially completed Bio-West study.
Wasatch County School District Superintendent Paul Sweat explains why the board denied the request to release the Bio West study.
“There’s a lot of things that happened in the process of making wetlands determination and lots of studies take place. And, we just wanted to preserve the process not only for the Army Corp but most importantly for Wasatch County School District supporters and make sure that we have this final determination done before we release all documents.”
Bio-West was unable to publicly comment on the work they had done because of a Non-Disclosure Agreement required by the school district.
Although it wasn’t completed, the Bio West study shows more than 14 acres of wetlands on the 63-acres. However, the CSR Engineers and Army Corp report confirms less than two acres.
The difference says Sweat is that the earlier Bio West study was done while a nearby farmer was irrigating. Bio-West he says was unable to complete the wetlands assessment within the contracted time frame. Because of that, the school district hired CRS engineers to finish the study. Once completed, it was sent to the Army Corps who authorizes the wetlands delineation.
“We asked him to come back because we found out the day he was down there, there was a large amount of flood irrigation on site. The farmer was watering the ground that day. And this is a very scientific, technical process. And you have to do soil studies, and they rely on plant vegetation there. It's not just the sight of water especially if the water is put there artificially by humans.”
“That is one of the questions we had as citizens of Wasatch County. Why would a public entity have contractors sign NDA's? That’s a breakdown of transparency when the citizens, if they do come across a public entity that will not release documents, there's nowhere for the citizens to go. They have to go to the state records committee or possibly District Court to get documents released.”
The 63-acre parcel is located on State Route 113 between Heber and Midway, which County Council Member Marilyn Crittenden says is a major thoroughfare.
Crittenden has concerns about the proposed location because of impacts to traffic and safety.
“I think the failure that took place was the school district not communicating with the other entities. I understand that the law in this state is that you don’t have to do that, but as a community outreach it would be appropriate to consult all the entities and say how does this work for you?”
Sweat says they conducted traffic studies prior to the purchase but due to the sensitive nature of land acquisition, they couldn’t share their plans with other government entities like the county council.
Paul Berg with Berg Engineering Resource Group evaluated the property prior to the school district purchasing it. He says a minimum of 60-acres is needed for a high school site. Roads, water and sewer service, electricity, gas, and fiber are also critical.
“So, one of the things I want to point out to this group is when you look at the Heber Valley there's not a whole lot of places that meet all of these requirements. For instance, if you are looking in the Charleston area, which does have large tracts of land, you would see that there's no sewer, the water system there, although it meets residential needs, doesn't appear to meet the high fire flow demands needed for school. And also, the access is limited. When you look at the North Village area North of Heber you find that some pretty steep slopes, close to 10%. Highway 40 now becomes your major access for students to get to school.”
Links to the engineering studies: