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CEDAR CITY MAY RELINQUISH KOLOB WATER RIGHTS

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Cedar City officials are considering giving up water rights to Kolob Reservoir and allowing the potential supply to return to booming and thirsty Washington County to the south.

On a 4-2 vote Monday, the Cedar City Water Board recommended the Iron County community get out of its 50-year deal with the Washington County Water Conservancy District for the reservoir's water.Since 1984, Cedar City has been paying $142,000 a year for its share of Kolob water. The current agreement calls for the city to continue those payments for another 41 years.

The Cedar City Council is expected to take up the issue at its Wednesday night meeting. A decision must be made by Thursday.

"We have to decide if we are going to pay or walk away," Mayor Harold Shirley said.

If the city decides to exercise its escape clause, the water would go back to Washington County. Cedar City would receive some repayment of its investment over the past nine years.

Shirley said officials also are negotiating a water-rights trade.

If the city decides to keep the water rights, costs to transfer the water from the Kolob Basin to Cedar City could reach $25 million, the mayor said.

Shirley also said anticipated objections from environmentalists over taking water from above southern Utah's Zion National Park could result in a long, expensive court battle.

If the city decides to sell back or trade its Kolob Reservoir water shares, Shirley said additional water resources would have to be found in Cedar Valley.

The city is using about 4,700 acre feet now of the 13,000 acre feet it has access to for its 17,000 residents, he said.