Bureau Of Reclamation Proposes Two-Year Water Study

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A proposed water study will look at a wide variety of options for addressing the future needs of the Rim country, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation told the Payson Town Council Thursday night.

"Some of the alternatives we'll be looking at include bringing water up from Roosevelt, bringing water up from Fossil Creek, bringing water down from Blue Ridge, going deeper into the forest, water conservation and water re-use," Lynn Fisher, a planner in the bureau's Phoenix office, said.

She also told the council that "some other water users" have asked to be included beyond those who previously indicated an interest in participating in the study. Besides the bureau and the town, Gila County and the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District are the original partners.

During the initial appraisal phase of the study, a project management team made up of one representative from each of the partnering entities will examine and rate all the alternatives, Fisher said. An environmental impact study is an important part of the second, or feasibility, phase.

"By the time we're finished, we will have carefully evaluated each of the alternatives from an economic standpoint, an engineering standpoint, an environmental standpoint and a legal standpoint," Fisher said. "With this information in hand, plus a united region, your congressman will listen to you. He will know you have evaluated all the alternatives, examined the recommended solutions, done your environmental work. He will then help you with implementation."

Town Public Works Director Buzz Walker explained why the assistance of a federal agency is so valuable.

"One of the good things about Payson is that we're basically alone up here on this mountain and don't have any nearby cities to compromise our quality of life. One of the bad things about Payson is that living up here alone on top of this mountain we know that developing additional water supplies will in large part depend on activities outside of the town limits, and that makes them complex, time consuming and expensive issues."

Fisher said the bureau wants to have an agreement in place by Oct. 1, and that the study will take two to three years to complete. The federal government will pay half of the estimated cost of $600,000, with the participating government entities providing the balance.

In other action at Thursday's meeting, the council:

Authorized $51,000 to create a methamphetamine enforcement program. Components include a repeat offender program, extra money to pay informants, additional overtime for special enforcement officers, and additional drug recognition training for field officers.

Awarded a citation for outstanding service and distinguished citizenship to Lee Pretsch, chairperson of the ADA Committee. Among Pretsch's many contributions, according to Mayor Ray Schum, she has been "the driving force behind all the veterans programs we've had in this town over the past four or five years."

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