The long-awaited end to the water wars that have divided neighbors will land on the Payson Town Council’s agenda at 5:30 p.m., Thursday at town hall.
The council will decide whether to sign an intergovernmental agreement with neighboring Star Valley negotiated by Payson Mayor Kenny Evans in a closed-door executive session with the Star Valley Town Council last week.
Under the modified terms of the agreement, Payson will sell Star Valley three drinking water wells for $82,000. In addition, Payson will agree to provide Star Valley with a backup water supply in emergencies by connecting the once-controversial Tower Well to the proposed Star Valley water system.
The agreement effectively ends a bitter, six-year argument between the neighbors spurred by Payson’s purchase of the Tower Well that stuck a straw into Star Valley’s water table in the face of rapid declines in Payson’s well levels.
Since then, Payson has locked up rights to the Blue Ridge pipeline, which will double its long-term water supply.
The neighboring towns have been considering the agreement off and on for nearly a year. Fears that Payson’s Tower Well would pump Star Valley’s shallow water table dry essentially provoked its incorporation.
Evans and the Star Valley council last week agreed to a number of key changes in the previously proposed intergovernmental agreement. One key change proposed by Star Valley would remove the proposed 520-gallon-a-minute limit on pumping of the Tower Well. Payson engineers have said that pumping 520 gallons a minute from the deep Tower Well would not affect Star Valley’s shallow water table. Payson would have to upgrade the well to pump much more than that maximum rate, said Evans.
Payson had offered the limit on the Tower Well’s output to allay Star Valley’s fears that its neighbor might one day pump dry its water table. In the end, the Star Valley council suggested dropping the limit on the pumping from the Tower Well in return for increasing by one third a proposed limit on how much water Star Valley can take out of the three other wells it’s buying from Payson.
The Star Valley council apparently decided to accept as sufficient limit on the Tower Well both the capacity of the existing pumps and a Payson policy that would forbid taking more water out of an aquifer than rainfall puts in during an average year. Moreover, Payson has long argued that the Tower Well pulls water from a separate, deep aquifer and not primarily from the shallow water table that supplies almost all of Star Valley’s wells — most of them privately owned.
The catalyst for the historic deal between Payson and Star Valley came when Payson Water Company President Robert Hardcastle signaled his willingness to sell the 300-meter water company to Star Valley at an affordable price. That potentially removed the chief stumbling block to Star Valley’s purchase of the Payson wells, since Star Valley could use the wells to supply the water system if it bought out Hardcastle.