Water Exploration Continues In P-S Area

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A little more than $200,000 of taxpayer money will be spent on water exploration in the Pine-Strawberry area in the coming fiscal year.

The Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District passed the fiscal 2002-2003 budget of $230,417 at its July 13 meeting.

Board Chairman Gary Hezel outlined the four major projects for water exploration to the 50 people in attendance at the meeting.

Formed five years ago, the district's main objective has been to seek out long-term solutions to the water supply issues facing Pine-Strawberry.

The largest item, at a projected $90,000, is a well-siting project for the area. The goal is to identify two to five well sites that could have deep well production capabilities in or within a two-mile radius of the mountain communities, Hezel said.

Another $30,000 has been slated to take a closer look at the Strawberry test hole dug in 1999 near the corner of Juniper and Lost Oak in Strawberry.

"We have already sunk $133,500 into that hole and we are not ready to walk away thinking we got $133,500 out of it," Hezel said.

The district actually spent $41,000, with the state putting in $70,000 and the Forest Service chipping in $22,500.

The District is looking at water quality and perhaps production at some level from the test hole.

"(The goal) is to locate a firm that will bail any and all materials beyond the depth of 1,420 feet to a total depth of 1,872 feet; monitor all recharge of water in the borehole if any; and if feasible, perform a pump test for a period of 34 hours (an industry standard test period)," Hezel said.

Another $35,000 has been budgeted to continue participation in the Northern Gila County Water Plan Alliance and the United States Geological Survey. Leaving a balance of $64,000 for "water exploration phase II."

"If we get any positive results, we will have some money available," Hezel said. "We want to be prepared to work for you folks."

If the one of the three other projects produces results that the district could act upon, there will be money in the bank to spend.

Notably not in this budget is an expense for a reservoir to be built in conjunction with Brooke Utilities. At the May board meeting, Robert Hardcastle, president of Brooke Utilities presented a partnership plan to develop a reservoir in Pine that could provide as much as 26 million gallons of water storage.

"During the June board meeting, the board decided not to be a financial partner, but suggested I continue communications with Mr. Hardcastle regarding feasibility of the reservoir and possible alternatives," Hezel said.

"There are economic and financial hurdles facing private development of the project that PSWID would be well equipped to play an important role in," Hardcastle said. He estimates the price tag somewhere between $450,000 and $1,000,000, depending on design.

"The project makes a lot of sense and probably should have been developed decades ago," Hardcastle said.

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