Star Valley Unhappy With Water Study

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The Star Valley Town Council has a few issues with the results of a safe yield study released last week.

The council met Tuesday in a work-study session to discuss the report. They called the results of the nine-month study "inconclusive."

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Chuck Heron

The Town of Payson paid $50,000 for the study to the Scottsdale-based hydrology firm, Clear Creek Associates. The company was asked to perform tests on the wells in Star Valley to determine if Payson's usage of the Tower Well would affect the surrounding water supply.

The study concluded that there is more than enough water in the Tower Well for use by Payson without harming Star Valley's watershed, but Star Valley officials are skeptical.

"It's a good report," Mayor Chuck Heron said. "It doesn't tell us what we want to know."

Heron and Chris Benjamin of the Diamond Star Water Coalition discussed the effect that pumping tests on the Tower Well -- conducted by Benjamin -- had on wells in Star Valley, most significantly on Vice Mayor Randy White's well and a well near the Star Valley Baptist Church.

Benjamin said the levels of those two wells and others have dropped as a result of the safe-yield study.

"The study did not address the cause and effect of the Tower Well on Star Valley wells, which is what we asked for," Heron said.

Both Payson and Star Valley agreed to abide by the results of the study when the hydrology firm was hired in July, but Heron said that the scope of the study has since changed.

Heron and the council disagree with the findings, citing evidence of their own, which shows a drop of 50 feet for two wells in Star Valley and a drop of 10 feet for several others as a result of the pumping tests.

"We're not refuting the study," Heron said. "The study was probably OK for what it covered. It didn't cover what happens to Star Valley wells. That's the big problem."

Heron said that he wanted the safe-yield study to reveal the cause and effect of pumping on the wells in Star Valley, which he believes it did not show.

"Bottom line is, we've got a problem," Heron said. "We still don't have any conclusive evidence that says what the Tower Well is going to do to Star Valley wells."

Heron said he is eager for the two towns to settle the water dispute, but that prior efforts at reaching an agreement were insufficient.

"I keep coming back to the two things lacking from the IGAs -- an agreeable definition of harm to Star Valley wells, and the other problem that was never discussed was what kind of correction action would Payson do, should such harm occur," Heron said.

White said he was concerned with the lack of an established definition of harm.

"I don't think any of us are so narrow-minded that we don't want to share," White said. "We don't want to share to zero."

Heron said he was curious to see how the Payson Town Council will react to the study during its Thursday night meeting, adding that he is always ready to work on the problem.

"We'll go to the bartering table anytime if they'll come forward with some clear-cut cause and effect," Heron said.

In other news, the council approved the appointment of five members to compose an Architectural Design Review Commission, whose task it will be to review and recommend on the facade and landscape of new buildings in Star Valley.

The members are Timothy Bradley, Sandra Dircks, Bernadette Heath, Glen McCombs and Jason Vagalatos.

The council also approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Payson and a $210,000 contract to continue law enforcement services with the Payson Police Department for the Town of Star Valley through June 30, 2008.

Police Commander Don Engler was present at the meeting.

Council member Mary Ann Kotelnicki was not present at the meeting.

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