Star Valley Report Claims Water Wrongdoings

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A report released by the Star Valley Water Coalition claims the Town of Payson is violating its own policy by pumping the Tower Well.

Star Valley Mayor Chuck Heron said he wanted the report made public because he wasn't getting answers from Payson officials.

The report cites Payson Resolution 2131 and claims that in pumping water out of the Tower Well, the Town of Payson is using old water that will not be recharged and is therefore "mining water." Based on

Payson's safe yield water policy, mining water is prohibited.

Payson water officials don't agree with the claims.

Payson's Hydro-geologist Mike Ploughe said the water used by the Tower Well will be recharged over time. He referred to the Mogollon Rim Water Resources Management Study conducted by the Bureau of Water Reclamation, on the regional recharge of groundwater in the northern Gila County area.

The study proves the water used in Tower Well pumping is not old in the sense that it is a stagnant, non-renewable source. Rather, that the water comes from regional sources miles away and takes time to reach its underground destination in Star Valley, he said.

"There will be a regional recharge of the Tower Well water aquifer," he said.

The study, conducted from 2003 to 2005, is currently under peer review by the Salt River Project, Northern Arizona University, the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Ploughe said he wanted the study to be evaluated by neutral parties to ensure its validity.

"Things go down and things go up," he said. "(The Star Valley Water Coalition) is looking at a shorter time frame. When you look at a longer time frame, it's not so bad. It's not that they're wrong. I'm not going to dispute that. But there's more going on than what they're seeing."

"There's nothing illegal about what's been done by the Town of Payson," Ploughe added. "We have all legal rights to what we're doing."

Payson's Public Works Director Buzz Walker said Payson abides by state law and is within legal boundaries.

"The state of Arizona controls the production and transport of groundwater," he said.

Ploughe pointed out that water levels in many wells in town have increased by 17 feet as a result of the heavy rainfall several weeks ago.

"With responsible management and the addition of surface water there should be enough water supply for Northern Gila County," he said.

Ploughe said the town of Payson has data on wells for more than 30 years and has witnessed the rise and fall cycle before.

"We've tried to work with (Star Valley officials) to the best of our ability," he said. "They've got their minds made up."

Heron said the report was released to "show inconsistencies in (Payson's) own documentation."

"We are not generating data or conclusions only using Town of Payson published documentation to show how water and safe-yield comments are reported and written to suit a particular audience at a particular time," Heron said.

Both groups said past meetings with each other have been futile and don't anticipate a change in results in future meetings. Calls to Mayor Bob Edwards were not returned by press time.

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