Keep Kanab Unspoiled Protests Water Diversion for Frac Sand Mine

Keep Kanab Unspoiled (KKU), a community-based group that was formed to protect the quality of life in Kanab, a historic western town in Southern Utah, filed a protest this week to the city’s application to divert water for a frac sand mine and processing plant. There were more than thirty protests filed, including from ranchers worried about their future access to water, as well as the Kanab Irrigation Company and Best Friends Animal Society.

The request for the water diversion stems from a contract the City of Kanab signed this summer with Southern Red Sands (SRS), a start-up mining operation, backed by Kem Gardner, the Salt Lake City developer. SRS has mining claims on more than 11,000 acres of land on the plateau just above Kanab, just over ten miles from Zion National Park. Its claims on this scenic plateau go up to tourist attractions, like Peekaboo slot canyon and Diana’s Throne, as well as the boundaries of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

The City of Kanab agreed to sell up to 600 acre-feet of water annually for twenty years, with SRS having the option for three 10-year renewals. SRS has also contracted with the Kane County Water Conservancy District for the same amount of water.

Dean Baker, a member of Keep Kanab Unspoiled commented, “This frac sand mine threatens the future of Kanab, most immediately by taking away the water we need, but also by ruining an environmental treasure.”

The protest was filed with the Utah State Water Engineer, listing a variety of reasons, most importantly that the City of Kanab does not have a surplus of water to sell. Utah state law, as well as the state constitution, prohibits the city from selling water outside its boundaries unless it has a surplus.

Kanab has been widely projected to face water shortfalls in coming decades, as continued growth puts a strain on its water supply. This projected shortfall is the reason many officials in the area have supported the construction of the Lake Powell Pipeline as a future source of water.

The projection of a shortfall was also confirmed in a newly released study, commissioned by Best Friends Animal Society, by Dr. Kenneth Kolm. The study projected that if SRS uses all the water contracted, it will cause several lakes and streams in the area to dry up, in addition to reducing the flow of water from the wells owned by Best Friends and the City of Kanab.  

The protest was filed by Steven Clyde of Clyde-Snow Law firm in Salt Lake City.