Great Day For Rim Country

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Next thing you know, we’ll all have rubber duckies.

That’s how happy and splashy it feels right now in Rim Country’s convoluted water history.

And we’re not just talking about the deep snow pack up on the Rim and the merry gurgle of Tonto Creek and the East Verde River after a decade of drought.

On today’s front page, you’ll find reports on the two latest bits of good news on Rim Country’s late and unlamented water wars.

First, the Payson Council has now approved the outline of a proposed agreement with neighboring Star Valley that will wash away the last vestiges of conflict over water between those once tense neighbors.

Payson and Star Valley have agreed to work out the terms under which Payson can turn over one or two deep wells that tap into a so far little used aquifer beneath Star Valley. Those wells can not only provide the town with a backup water supply, but can provide the water necessary for Star Valley to qualify as a water provider so it can secure rights to Blue Ridge water.

Equally important, Payson has agreed to negotiate a limit on pumping from the water table beneath Star Valley, based on the long-term “safe yield” of that reservoir.

If the two towns can work out the proposed agreement, it should set to rest Star Valley’s fears that Payson in an emergency would drain its neighbor’s water table by pumping water from the Tower Well.

Second, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans has promised to make sure that town’s Blue Ridge pipeline is designed to include connections for any community along the way that promises to follow through on securing that water and providing the plumbing to take delivery.

Evans’ pledge came in response to the Roundup’s series on the plight of unincorporated communities along the route of the pipeline.

All are entitled to a share of some 500 acre-feet of Blue Ridge water — but only if they can qualify as ‘water providers’ and so negotiate for their share with the Salt River Project. Unfortunately, Payson seems likely to have designed the pipeline long before many of those communities can jump through the necessary hoops.

Of course, those communities must still signal their interest to Payson — even if it’s just as a result of a vote by a homeowners association. Many have a long road ahead to establish that water right — and then figure out how to take delivery. But Evans’ commitment at least means Payson will design the system to accommodate the necessary hookups — including hydrants along the pipeline to supply tanker trucks for fire departments.

So we applaud Payson for taking two steps to address the region’s water problems and be good neighbors. Those actions signal a welcome realization that we’re all in this together — and watersheds and water tables don’t pay much attention to town boundaries.

On the whole — a great day for water play in Rim Country.

Break out the rubber duckies!

Don’t ignore traffic study

Now, that’s a puzzler.

The Payson Town Council last week made a peculiar non-decision.

Specifically, the council decided not to raise the speed limit on South Rim Club Parkway to 35 miles an hour, waving aside both residents’ requests and its own traffic study.

The traffic study showed that the great majority of people drive 35-40 miles an hour along that stretch of road, which is bordered mostly by empty land. That makes sense, especially since the speed limit already stands at 35 on that same road on the other side of the highway.

A higher speed limit on that road would be safe and more fair to drivers, while improving traffic circulation by providing drivers with another easy way to avoid the highway.

Instead, the town council decided to do nothing for the moment, mostly while they wait to figure out what impact a proposed new fire station and a proposed college campus might have on traffic circulation.

But that just makes no sense. If we build the college at all — it won’t affect traffic for several years. And if the town ever does come up with the money to operate a third fire station, all the town needs do is install a red light to stop traffic when the fire trucks roll.

In the meantime, the traffic limits ought to reflect realities on the road — not hypotheticals and wishful thinking.

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