CLARKSTON – Permitting records obtained by Cache Valley Daily indicate there was never a threat to the watershed in the Clarkston area and all proper permitting was obtained to develop on the property.

Records filed with Cache County indicate not only did a local developer obtain proper permits to cut a road on his property, a state engineer was also called and visited the site to address a possible watershed concern and found there was none.

Clarkston permitting for Winter Canyon

Permitting records obtained by Cache Valley Daily indicate there was never a threat to the watershed in the Clarkston area and all proper permitting was obtained to develop on the property. (Photo: Cimaron Neugebauer)

Even though there was no open water near where work was being done, as a precautionary measure, the landowner had an environmental engineer with Utah Department of Natural Resources (DNR) visit the site to determine if a stream alteration permit was necessary. It was determined the drainage areas above the farmland did not have enough natural stream characteristics to require a permit, according to a DNR site visit report.

On KVNU’s For the People program in early June, Clarkston Mayor Craig Hidalgo talked about why they reached out to the county in the first place to resolve the issue, which he said involves the Clarkston watershed, which shares water with nearby towns of Newton and Trenton.

He said in getting ready for Memorial Day in late May he looked up on the mountain and saw that someone had been cutting a lot of roads up there.

“So, I came home, I got on the (Cache) County website to look at their planning commission to see if they had approved any permits, and there weren’t any,” Hidalgo said. “No permits were approved to be up there doing that. Now I understand that landowners have a right to put a road, this extended way beyond just putting a road.”

A draft Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) was done for the project on May 8. That plan included the entire scope of the project, detailed maps showing where the proposed work was to be done and the cutting of the new dirt roads.

On May 13, days after that draft was submitted and a Notice of Intent was obtained from the EPA, the County sent a bulldozer and an armed deputy sheriff to plow a path on the landowner’s property destroying 20 to 40 foot tall trees, estimated to be 20 years old, according to court records. A Notice of Intent allows work to continue – pending the approval of a SWPPP application. 

Previously, there was a single-file hiking path. Court records indicate the County expanded that walking path for 200 yards in length and about 10 feet wide.

“Rather than discuss the claims with Plaintiffs, the County proceeded to bulldoze the alleged Winter Canyon path with a Sheriff’s escort,” according to a temporary restraining order filed in the court by the owner of the land.

The County disputes the area was “a public highway” and a public thoroughfare and therefore justified it in bulldozing on a public right of way.

Cache County trails development officials put an announcement on the Clarkston City website on May 22 attempting to drum up support for making roads on private property west of the city.

“The county is planning on fighting to keep these trails open and we will need evidence of public use.”

“We need proof, like pictures, that these trails are regularly and consistently used by the public to access the state and federal lands around Gunsight Peak,” the post added. “If you have pictures or testimonials that you are willing to share, please send them to the county.”

The attorney for the property owner has stated that Cache County has been very collaborative in working through some of the concerns and issues regarding the permitting process.

Work on the property has ceased only because the scope of work for this time of year has been completed, according to the attorney. Disturbed areas on the hillside will be reseeded in the fall.

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