Star Valley will host “the most important meeting it is likely to have” Tuesday night when it votes on an agreement with Payson for the purchase of three wells and limits on pumping of the divisive Tower Well.
With the Payson Town Council signature fresh on an intergovernmental agreement to limit pumping of the Tower Well and to sell three wells to Star Valley for $99,200, the towns could finally put years of water disputes behind them.
“We need Payson,” Star Valley Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier said, for projects including the creation of a sanitary district and acquisition of Blue Ridge water.
“We need to work together on this issue and others,” he said. “We will be better together, not apart.”
Critics maintain the deal with Payson is flawed, and includes the acquisition of two wells, PW-1 and PW-2, which are landlocked.
The neighboring communities have fought over water for years. Star Valley even incorporated in 2005 over fears that Payson would drain the town’s groundwater supply dry by over pumping the Tower Well.
This agreement approved by Payson in mid-May includes three small well sites that lie between Mayfield Canyon Road and the Sky Run RV Resort near the National Forest boundary. Two of the wells are currently accessible only through Chris Benjamin’s property, while the third well, Pinegate, is further south and accessible.
Grier is hopeful Benjamin allows an easement across his property, but if he does not, it raises a number of concerns. Accessing the wells through Mayfield Canyon is an option, but is only just being looked at, he said.
With the Pinegate Well, Star Valley plans to provide water to two homes, giving the town status as a water purveyor. In turn, the town could negotiate a deal with SRP for a share of 500-acre feet of Blue Ridge water earmarked for Northern Gila County. More than a dozen other communities are interested in tapping into that pipeline.
If Star Valley gets an allotment, it hopes to reverse the flow on the Tower Well pipe and deliver Blue Ridge water to Star Valley.
“The Tower Well is far in the rearview mirror,” Grier said. “The town needs to look to surface water and not well water.”
The agreement also:
• Limits Star Valley’s pumping of PW-1 and PW-2 wells to 323 acre-feet annually and 57 acre-feet from Pinegate.
• Prevents Payson from ever pumping more than 855 acre-feet annually from the Tower Well.
• Guarantees any future wells constructed by either town will not negatively affect PW-1, PW-2, Pinegate or Tower Wells.
• Assures both towns will share water level monitoring and production information.
• Provides well water quality analysis, development and engineering design of the Pinegate Well on Payson’s dime.
• Gives Star Valley back-up water service in the event of an emergency.
What does Payson get out of the deal?
Grier said $100,000 for three unneeded wells and yanking the political thorn of the Tower Well.
A developer drilled the Tower Well several years ago and swapped it to Payson in return for a $7,500-per-unit impact fee on several hundred homes.
“We are all neighbors here. I think they took heat for having the (Tower) Well and depleting the water from Star Valley,” Grier said.
Grier believes Payson’s intentions are “100 percent goodwill” and “that nothing is lurking in the shadows regarding their intent.”
Grier admitted it might be hard for those around when the Tower Well was built to change their way of thinking toward Payson.
“I hope that each councilor takes the chance to say what their view is,” Grier said, “and I hope they give the signal (to Payson) that we are for this.”
The June 15 council meeting takes places at 6:30 p.m. in the Lamplighter RV Park recreation room, 3933 E. Highway 260.