Sky Chaney: Gov. Cox should stop development of a new golf course in drought-stricken Kane County.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Governor Spencer Cox and interagency fire leadership ask everyone in Utah this summer to change their behaviors when outside, as they launch “Fire Sense”, a public service campaign designed to educate the public and empower them to make fire sense decisions that will drive down the number of human-caused wildfires. Gathered in City Creek Canyon on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, leadership launched a messaging campaign pinpointing how 100% of the state is in drought, with 90% of the state in extreme drought.

Dear Governor Cox,

Down here in the hot desert of Kane County, we are experiencing the worst drought of our lifetimes. Trees and plants are dying in our yards from lack of water. Our local irrigation schedule has been shortened. Our county has received the worst possible drought rating. Wild animals are invading our community because they have no water to drink.

At the same time that a water disaster is upon us, our Kane County Water Conservancy District is proposing to build a new destination golf course created by high end designer David McLay Kidd. They want to use water from our local reservoir to water this proposed golf course year round, and our water district wants public money to pay for it.

Utah Code 17B-2a, Part 10 clearly defines the “Purpose of Water Conservancy Districts” in our state. This overriding purpose is to “provide for the conservation and development of the water and land resources of the state.” Nowhere in this statute does it mention that a water district may build a destination golf course that may deplete a community’s local water supply.

A 2012 study by the Utah Division of Water Resources for the Lake Powell pipeline clearly states that water in our local Jackson Flat Reservoir will need to be used in the future during times of drought. Our water district is proposing to use this reservoir for a golf course. The future of Kane County depends on keeping this necessary resource intact, not depleting it.

The Taxpayer Association of Kane County recently completed a survey of over 800 people throughout Kane County; 93% of the respondents stated that they do not want a destination golf course to be built with public money while using our valuable local water supply in the middle of an extreme drought.

Governor Cox, you have declared a “State of Emergency Due to Drought Conditions.” You have issued an executive order that directly refers to Utah Code “authorizing the governor to employ measures and give direction to state and local officers and agencies that are reasonable and necessary for the purpose of securing compliance with orders made pursuant to the Disaster Response Recovery Act.”

Your executive order also makes clear that “Cities and counties should consider developing and implementing water restriction plans for the upcoming irrigation season.” This season, farmers in our county have less water because our water resources are not able to supply what they need.

Governor Cox, you have asked families and businesses to cut back on their water use. You have asked cities and counties to implement water restrictions. We believe that it is time to implement your Drought Executive Order in Kane County.

Our Taxpayer Association and the majority of citizens in our county ask that you please advise the Kane County Water Conservancy District to postpone this project. We also ask that you contact our Kane County Commissioners advising them to hold off funding the loan for this golf course project. We need to put this new golf course on hold until we know how long the extreme drought is going to last.

Please help protect the families and businesses of Kanab and Kane County from the risks associated with this proposed golf course. The citizens of Kane County will appreciate your wise and responsible action in this matter.

Sky Chaney

Sky Chaney is president of the Taxpayer Association of Kane County.