Gila County is back in the market for a company that can drill an exploratory well as deep as 2,500 feet into the earth near Pine.
The Gila County Board of Supervisors approved a second call for bids Tuesday for a company that can search for water in the Pine-Strawberry area.
The much-anticipated project was originally bid last fall, said Robert Mawson, an RJM Associates consultant serving as project coordinator for the Northern Gila County Water Plan Alliance.
"At that time we had only two respondents, so as a group over the past several months, the Northern Gila County Water Plan Alliance worked the specifications over to make them a little more user-friendly," he said.
County officials will evaluate the bids based on price and company qualifications, Mawson said.
"We're trying to (drill) as deep as we can," he said. "We're limiting ourselves to 2,500 feet or bedrock if we happen to hit (water) before then."
The actual drilling, Mawson said, is expected to take from two to three weeks, depending on the conditions the winning bidder encounters.
The bids received so far have placed the price tag between $9,000 and $145,000, "But we're hoping to get it lower than that," Mawson said.
The cost is being split by the State of Arizona, which gave the Water Plan Alliance $150,000 last session, of which there is about $70,000 left, Mawson said. The Forest Service kicked in $22,000.
The Water Plan Alliance, which was formed 2 1/2 years ago, also has legislation going through the State which may bring more funding.
The borehole project is "just one of the aspects of our search for a firm water supply in the area," Mawson said.
Who will pay for developing any water that's found is undetermined, Mawson said. "That's not our purpose. Our purpose is strictly to gather data -- we're not a water company."
Because the Water Plan Alliance's funding is limited, Mawson said, the Pine-Strawberry borehole project is a one-shot deal -- unless other sources for funding are found.
"But for now," he said, "when the money is gone, it's gone. But what we really need to know is, what's down there? We should be able to determine that the first time."
Mawson said the project is part of a five-year study being conducted by the United States Geological Survey for his organization.
"Right now they're working on surface streams and underground geology water sources they might be able to tap into," he said. "This is only the first year of the study, and it will continue, provided we can get it all funded.
"Basically, the plan is to research all the data in the Pine-Strawberry area, look at potential water sources and supplies, and determine how they might work into our efforts.
Bids for the drilling project are due back in two or three weeks, Mawson said, and will be reviewed upon receipt.
During the summers of 1997, 1998 and 1999, Pine customers were placed on severe water restrictions and the community's primary water company, Brooke Utilities, was forced to haul millions of gallons of water from Strawberry to Pine.
With that history fresh in mind, Dorie Roepke, a board member of the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District, said he's very excited about the prospect of the borehole project.
"I think it is the most excellent prospect we have going," he said. "With USGS doing hydro-geologic data and accumulating lots of information, this will add to our information source."