Water Task Force Releases Names Of Participants

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The list of water task force members -- a contentious matter among local political watchdogs -- was released to the public earlier this week.

"To be successful, our task forces have to have transparency," said task force coordinator Leon Keddington.

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Leon Keddington

Initially, Chairman Lynn Godfrey did not release the names of his task force members -- a group of engineers, hydrologists and statisticians -- to protect their privacy.

Godfrey's task force operates differently than the others. It's separated into three subcommittees, seeking specific information. These committee members research the issues, formulate their findings and then present them to Godfrey.

Payson well data

Godfrey has said that his task force will use existing information provided by past studies, current regional studies and the annual status report released by Payson's water department.

"It has to do with finding patterns in huge amounts of data that are not apparent on a small scale," Godfrey said in a statement released by the water task force.

A Payson Water Department study provides a comprehensive overview of Payson's water situation, and it varies year to year. Mike Ploughe, the town's hydrogeologist, oversees the project, and despite drought and growth, Payson's water supply has stabilized. Plough's output also includes well levels, water consumption and future water acquisition options.

But Godfrey said his group will attempt to take the town's efforts a step further.

"The objective is to see what we can infer about the size of the ‘reservoir' under Payson, and thus get a partial handle on how much water we have."

Tower Well in Star Valley

It's the well that created a town. The Tower Well, now owned by Payson, stirred controversy when a local development firm secured the water through a series of agreements with the Town of Payson and private property owners. In return, Payson agreed to pay $50,000 for a "safe-yield" study in Star Valley. Both towns have hired separate consultants.

Vit Kuhnel is the senior hydrogeologist working on the Star Valley study -- an extension of an analysis completed in fall 2005. His firm, Levine-Fricke, collects the data from about 15 wells around Star Valley.

He said he's sharing this data with the consulting firm, Clear Creek Associates, working on Payson's behalf.

Clear Creek Associates is charged with answering one question about the safe-yield of Star Valley's water supply: Does the amount of water extracted exceed the annual recharge?

In turn, the Mayor's water task force will use this data to determine the impact of the Tower Well -- not currently in use -- on nearby wells.

"The well won't go away, so we've got to address how to use it," Godfrey said.

Star Valley resident and member of the Diamond Star Water Coalition, Chris Benjamin is a member of this subcommittee. Benjamin has publicly criticized Payson for its involvement in the Tower Well transaction.

Keddington said Benjamin serves as a representative of Star Valley to provide the task force with a regional perspective. He monitors the wells and supplies the information, Keddington added.

"I have confidence in (Godfrey) and other people on the committee. There are enough people with scientific backgrounds that if there is bias it would not come out in the final recommendations," Keddington said.

Additional water sources

Godfrey leaves the cost analysis to a third subcommittee.

They will provide an updated build out number -- currently estimated at approximately 30,000 people. Based on that number, the group will figure the financial options available to the region. Cost-benefit analysis will drive any of their conclusions. For instance, Blue Ridge may be reliable but is expensive, and though forest drilling costs less, the results are hit and miss.

"This task is primarily to develop project costs and schedules," Godfrey said.

Godfrey is still seeking professionals -- engineers, statisticians, mathematicians and accountants -- to help the water task force process the data. Contact Keddington to get involved, (928) 468-9667.

Water task force committee

Editor's note:

Task force chair Lynn Godfrey was initially hesitant to release the names of the water task force out of respect for their privacy. However, in the name of transparency, they have been released.

The Payson Roundup would like to ask our readers to be respectful of these people who are volunteers, giving of their time and talents to serve our community.

If you have concerns about water issues, please direct them to the Payson mayor or members of town council.

  • John Swensen, electrical engineer, retired Southwest Bell statistician
  • Jerry Foster, construction engineer, retired ADOT
  • Ed Welge, geologist, retired Chevron and Conoco oil and gas exploration
  • Willard Cox, mining engineer, retired professor
  • John Brenneger, hydrologist
  • Chris Benjamin, Star Valley resident, data source
  • Morris Brown, mechanical engineer, retired plant operations
  • Jim Hipple, CPA, retired construction accounting
  • Don Meloche, attorney, retired from the bench in Southern California
  • Joel Mona, civil engineer, pipelines, pumping stations, reservoirs
  • Dick Reese, electrical engineer, retired construction management
  • Gary Vaplon, chemical engineer, retired from Cabbot Corp.

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