Mayfield Water Debate Heats Up

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by Jim Keyworth

roundup staff reporter

The Town of Payson's proposal to drill 21 exploratory wells in the vicinity of Mayfield Canyon north of Star Valley takes center stage at two meetings this week.

Wednesday, the Payson Ranger District will hold an informational meeting on the subject at 7 p.m. in the Payson High School Auditorium. The Diamond Star Citizens' Action Coalition, a group that opposes the town's proposal on the grounds that it will affect the wells of residents in the area, is encouraging residents of Diamond Point Shadows and Star Valley to "pack the place."

Then on Thursday at 6 p.m. the town council will consider a resolution encouraging the Tonto National Forest to continue to issue permits allowing the town to identify, develop and use water resources within the forest. The resolution specifically urges the national forest "to issue exploration permits for Mayfield Canyon area water exploration wells."

"We are doing this so we won't have to sit through a two-and-a-half hour bashing Wednesday night," Town Manager Rich Underkofler said.

"The forest service won't let us suck their wells dry," he said. "This is just a scientific exploration of a hypothesis that there might be a water supply in a much deeper fault than what supplies those communities out there."

A geologist retained by the town has identified a large multi-faulted block of fractured granite below the Little Diamond Rim that may produce water from a previously untapped source between 500 and 1,000 feet deep. The town hopes to develop from four to eight production wells, and use the other wells for monitoring.

The town manager also took exception to parts of a flyer produced by the Diamond Star coalition.

"One claim suggested that Payson is seeking a water supply to accommodate a community up to 60,000 persons," he said. "Hopefully, the water supply we may find will accommodate a community of 25,000 persons, which is consistent with population growth projections absent a water supply constraint."

He also disagreed with a claim that tax funds are financing the town's water exploration program.

"Funds received from the sale of the town's Central Arizona Project allocation are financing the ... program," he said.

Star Valley resident Chuck Heron, chairman of the coalition disagreed.

"The population projection is based on acre-foot projections right out of (Payson Public Works Director) Buzz Walker's office," Heron said. "And if they're using CAP money, Underkofler's going to have to prove that in writing. They sure have used that money for a lot of things."

The resolution on the council agenda is nothing more than a "power play" by the town, Heron believes.

"But that's OK. They have as much right to lobby the forest service as we do," he said.

Heron has met with Payson District Ranger Ed Armenta to work out an orderly procedure for receiving public comments at the Wednesday meeting.

"We're going to keep it under control and orderly by having people sign and then make their comments from the stage," he said.

According to a press release issued by the Payson Ranger District, the purpose of the meeting is "to explain the process used to determine areas to be explored, procedures used to safeguard other resources including surface waters and neighboring wells, and a description of the analysis process used to make the decision."

A sizable contingent from the coalition will probably be present at the town council meeting as well, Heron said.

Other items on the council agenda for Thursday evening include:

An ordinance authorizing a primary property tax rate of $0.0030188 on each $100 of the assessed valuation of all property. With property values going up, the new tax rate for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2002 actually represents a slight decrease over last year, according to Underkofler.

The appointment of a special ad hoc advisory committee to consider covering the swimming pool at Rumsey Park and the construction of a new community center.

"The pool is 15 years old and has a lot of leaks," Underkofler said. "It would need substantial rehab before being roofed. We need to do some value engineering to determine if it should stand alone with a roof or if it should be part of a new recreation center."

A report on the Payson Police Department's Volunteer in Action Program by Police Chief Gordon Gartner. The program, which began last spring, has so far resulted in 1,850 hours of volunteer service to the town, an estimated cost savings of $46,250.

Acceptance of an Arizona Commission on the Arts grant for $2,275 for the town's Concert Under the Stars series.

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