Star Valley: No Rush To Finalize Water Deal

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The longer the town of Star Valley looks at a water agreement intended to end five years of water wars, the more questions it raises.

Despite Payson’s approval of a water agreement authorizing the sale of three wells to Star Valley, Star Valley said it is taking its time filtering the agreement.

“Payson got ahead of us in presenting this,” said Star Valley Water and Sewer Meeting Chair Vern Leis. “We need to really look at this if we want it.”

“There are a lot of issues floating around out there,” said Bill Davis, Star Valley water and sewer member.

The intergovernmental agreement, signed by the Payson Town Council May 20, includes the sale of three wells to Star Valley for $100,000.

The purchase price represents the amount Payson spent to develop the wells, which put out a combined 320 acre-feet of water annually.

The agreement also limits the annual pumping of the Tower Well to 855 acre-feet and restricts Payson from drilling any new wells that would influence the Tower Well or the three other wells. It also limits Star Valley from using or drilling any new wells that would affect the Tower Well or other wells.

Proponents of the IGA say Payson won’t even need to pump the Tower Well when Blue Ridge water comes, but critics argue Payson could pump the Tower Well again if the town builds out to capacity.

Despite these concerns, Leis said the agreement could provide Star Valley with the chance to qualify as a “water purveyor,” meaning it could strike a deal for a share of the 500 acre-feet of Blue Ridge water still reserved for Northern Gila County communities.

SRP told Leis Star Valley must have at least two hookups to qualify as a water purveyor.

Since Blue Ridge water will flow only nine to 10 months out of the year, the wells will serve as backup.

Although Star Valley has no way to treat, distribute or store SRP water, Leis said it could sell the water back to Payson or to Chaparral Pines, for use on its golf courses.

“It seems like a good time to think about the two communities getting together and laying out a water plan that meets both communities’ goals,” Davis said.

However, Davis said he had a number of concerns regarding the well agreement. The first relating to section 8.1 of the IGA, which states Star Valley cannot pump more than 323 acre-feet per year from two of the wells and 57 acre-feet annually from another well.

“That seems odd that they could set a limit on another city,” he said. “Is that equitable?”

Councilor Gary Coon said he also had a number of concerns, the first relating to cost.

Coon asked Leis how much the project will cost the town, which Leis said he did not know.

“This is a big commitment.” Coon said, that could cost the town $1 million once a treatment plant and pipeline costs are included.

Leis said it was too early to speculate on costs.

“We need to make the first step and get allocation and then work with Payson on the next step,” Leis said.

Even if the system ended up costing a million, Leis said it would be a good deal, considering Brooke Utilities President Bob Hardcastle offered to sell Star Valley a system for more than $1.5 million.

“This project is going to cost these people a lot of money if we don’t know where we are going,” Coon said.

“History has been to fight about it, but this is the first step to take” to fix it, said Wayne Van Horn, water and sewer member.

Star Valley’s water attorney had planned to attend Thursday’s water and sewer meeting, but was not yet finished reviewing the IGA, Leis said.

Leis said the attorney was 80 percent through her analysis and would present her findings as soon as possible.

So far, the attorney had related back to Leis that Brooke Utilities may have the exclusive rights to provide water in town and may have the certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) for two of the proposed wells, but further review is needed.

Once the commission reviews the attorney’s recommendation, Leis said the commission would provide “qualified and quantitative recommendations” to the Star Valley Town Council. Six councilors including Mayor Bill Rappaport attended Thursday’s meeting.

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