Pine Strawberry: Awash In Water?

PSWID board seeks to acquire Strawberry Hollow, Milk Ranch wells, study non-producing wells, drill new deep well

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If the plans of the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) board unfold as anticipated, the two tiny mountain towns will enjoy new water sources by spring.

That could result in ample supplies and the end of the Stage 4 and Stage 5 restrictions imposed repeatedly for the past two decades.

The board has a three-pronged strategy for eliminating the shortages, said PSWID President Bill Haney. The board’s plan includes:

• Acquiring already available supplies, including the Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow wells.

• Studying shallow, dry wells in Pine and Strawberry areas to learn if they can again produce water if drilled deeper.

• Drilling a new well more than 1,000 feet deep.

“The deep well will not be done by this spring, it’s more of a long-range goal,” Haney said. “But we hope to have the other two accomplished (by late spring).”

To acquire the Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow wells, the board must negotiate purchase prices with the owners after appraisals are completed.

Loren Peterson is chairman of the Strawberry Hollow Water Improvement District and owner of the well.

Pine Realtor Ray Pugel co-owns the Milk Ranch Well with Robert Randall.

Haney says the starting points for negotiating the purchase of the two wells is about $375,000 for Strawberry Hollow and about $400,000 for Milk Ranch.

When Peterson completed drilling the well in 2003, he said he had originally invested about $250,000, but he has made improvements since.

“I’d like to get my money back out of it, but the real crime is if the communities don’t use this water,” Peterson said. “I’ve offered it because I’d like to share (the water) with the two communities.”

The 1,320-foot-deep well has been certified as a 100-year adequate water supply for Strawberry Hollow and could produce more than 100 gallons per minute.

Hydrogeologist Mike Ploughe has said the 1,045-foot-deep Milk Ranch well, drilled in 2006 just south of Pine Hardware, can produce 120 to 180 gallons per minute or even more with some improvements.

However, at faster rates the well also pumps sand, which would require some type of filtration system should the board purchase it, Haney said.

Other water sources immediately available include two wells owned by Brent Weeks and another by the Solitude Trails subdivision.

Solitude Trails has offered to sell its well for $400,000, but the district already has a water sharing agreement with the subdivision as it does with Weeks.

Dried up, shallow wells offer another potential water source. Haney estimates they must be drilled another 600 to 800 feet to produce the amounts needed to make them cost effective.

The district has retained Ploughe to study those older wells and make a recommendation on which ones can again begin producing.

Ploughe might have his recommendations ready at the board meeting later this month, said Haney.

The district could also drill a new, expensive deep well. However, the board wants to wait to see if a 1,500-foot-deep well drilled by the tiny Pine Creek Water Improvement District produces water before deciding what approach PSWID will take.

Drillers of that well, which will supply water for the 83 homeowners in Portals IV, have their fingers crossed it will yield 80 to 200 gallons per minute.

The Portals IV well, along with those at Milk Ranch and Strawberry Hollow, are the only three deep wells in the area.

Haney says his gut feeling is that if the board decides to drill its own deep well, it will be in the upper reaches of Pine Creek, possibly near a LDS church camp.

Haney sums up the board’s three-pronged strategy to acquire more water for Pine and Strawberry as, “we know the water is down there, it’s just a matter of getting it.”

That is remarkably different reasoning from past years when the area was thought to be chronically water short and that rationing and water hauling was a fact of summer life in the high country.

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