Town Should Stay Out Of Star Valley's Water

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We have supported the town's request to look for new water in the Mayfield Canyon area of the Tonto National Forest over the objections of Star Valley and Diamond Point Shadows residents.

While we don't claim to be hydrologists, the town water department makes a compelling case that water found there is quite likely to be from a different source than that tapped by locals. Besides, the Forest Service is providing safeguards that will pull the plug on the endeavor if the wells of nearby residents are affected.

It's in everybody's best interest to drill exploratory wells to find out whether new water is out there.

The Buckmaster project, however, is an entirely different thing. The town has given a developer the green light to bring water from a well in Star Valley to the town's water system to meet the requirements to develop a prime piece of real estate within the town limits -- the 37-acre property behind Rim Country Mall and town hall.

This well, unlike the ones the town wants to drill in the forest, is on property adjacent to Sky Run RV Resort, a 25-home development that Star Valley residents Chris and Karen Benjamin refer to as their "dream" and their retirement.

Benjamin says that his well dropped a foot a day during a 10-day period when the new well was being tested.

With a 150-foot column of water to draw from, it doesn't take a mathematician to see why the Benjamins are concerned.

The town says what it's doing is perfectly legal, according to Arizona water laws. Benjamin agrees.

But from our perspective, what the town is doing is akin to what Salt River Project has done to Payson for so many years -- use misguided, archaic water laws to drain our watershed for the benefit of its customers in the Valley and elsewhere.

On paper, the town says that the developer must prove that the water he brings to the town is new water. But so far the council seems to be paying scant attention to the Benjamin's plight.

And even if the town does, in fact, hold the developer to the conditions laid out in the letter of assurance the council recently approved -- without allowing the Benjamins or others in attendance to comment- this project, quite simply, makes the town look bad.

If the town can't absolutely guarantee the residents of Star Valley an affordable, reliable source of water, it should leave them in peace.

The Buckmaster property has been vacant for a long time. Waiting a few more years for Blue Ridge water is better than the alternative -- the appearance that the town council is bullying its smaller neighbors.

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