Castle Valley Comments
April 3, 2014
by Ron Drake
Apr 03, 2014 | 1551 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Castle Valley woman has been hired as a water commissioner to monitor the Castle Creek Distribution System and monitor a misunderstanding between the Daystar Academy and the Castle Valley Irrigation Company. Pam Hackley of Castle Valley was hired by the State Division of Water Rights as the new water commissioner, during interviews held in Castle Valley two weeks ago. She was chosen from among four candidates, all of whom were described as excellent applicants.

Hackley’s duties as the water commissioner will include visiting the diversion points two or more times a week during the irrigation season and diverting the water and recording the measurements. Castle Valley has a long history of water usage, although because of time and lost records when Grand County split off from Emery County, some of the history is a little vague when it comes to priority.

In a letter to the Utah State Division of Water Rights nearly eight years ago, Bill Hedden, one of the members of the Castle Valley Irrigation Company, stated that the original records were lost after Grand County split off from Emery County in 1890, but what is clear is that Castle Valley was first settled by John and Matt Martin in the late 1870s or early 1880s. John Martin resided on the land that became Daystar Academy and Matt Martin was living in the lower valley on the land included in the Castle Valley Irrigation Company. “Which one first diverted the creek is lost in the murk of time,” Hedden said concerning his research. “The Division of Water Rights researched the records and decided that background testimony in the 1903 Johnson Decree indicates that John Martin first appropriated the water that led to the Daystar right in 1885.

Meanwhile, the Castle Valley Irrigation Company presented information showing that Matt Martin was irrigating from a spring in lower Castle Valley as early as 1879, Hedden stated in his letter. “In 1888 John Pace moved into the lower valley near Matt and began irrigating. By 1894 he and Matt went to court to settle a water dispute, which was resolved in Martin’s favor showing he was irrigating before 1888. Unable to say from the evidence who had priority, the Division of Water Rights correctly decided to award both the 2.5 cubic feet per second (CFS) Daystar right and the 5.46 CFS Castle Valley Irrigation Company right the same 1885 priority date. They are clearly the oldest in the watershed, but beyond that, both are based on equally circumstantial evidence,” according to Hedden’s letter.

My interview with a former Daystar staff member several years ago indicates that in 1970 the first sponsors of the Adventist academy bought 160 acres from Jim Lammert in July and the adjoining upper 160 acres from Ray Shumway in October of that year and contracted with the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to build a reservoir. A large steel pipe then transported the water from the reservoir 2 miles to the Adventist farm to a new pivot sprinkling system, which supplied 150 pounds of pressure to the sprinklers. That was a new and innovative irrigation system at the time.

An amicable decision was reached during the meeting two weeks ago between the two water users and the Division of Water Rights as they all agreed on the hiring of the new water commissioner.


There are probably not too many people left in Castle Valley who remember the late Fred C. Johnson Jr. He died 30 years ago this week from a tragic one-vehicle accident on state Route 128 during the early morning hours.

Fred was a building contractor by trade and built many homes in Grand County that stand as a monument to his life, including his own home on Castle Valley Drive, which can be identified by the whale bones at the driveway.

As a pioneer resident of the Castle Valley River Ranchos, he served on the first board of directors of the property owners association. During that time, he was instrumental in purchasing and assembling the large culvert in Castle Creek that significantly improved our travel in and out of the valley. He also served as chairman of the irrigation company, spending many hours of his time working on the ditches.

Also 30 years ago this week, this column reported that Tina Plastow placed second in the 15 to 18 age bracket in the annual half marathon and five-mile run.

The Castle Valley Fire Department back then initiated a project to complete a pre-fire plan for every residence within the fire district. Pat Drake was in charge of the project and she said volunteers would be asking residents to sketch their property, showing the location of septic tanks, propane tanks, electrical breaker boxes and other information that would aid firefighters in the event of a fire. The location of septic tanks back then and now is important information because they will not support the weight of a fire truck if it is are driven over a tank.

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