Saying it would look into every water supply option, the Star Valley council moved forward in pursuing a share of water from the Blue Ridge pipeline.
With the deadline for making an allocation request approaching, the council instructed water attorney Karen Nalley at a Nov. 15 council meeting to look into cost, need and return with answers quickly.
The council recently approved purchasing the local water company, fulfilling one promise made at incorporation four years ago to protect residents’ water supply. Along with that, the council said it is important it look into every water option to further shore up the town’s water supply.
A share of Blue Ridge would give the town reliable surface water for nine months out of the year and protect residents during droughts or if the town’s water supply became contaminated due to leaky septic systems.
Councilor George Binney urged the council to let Nalley look into the cost of Blue Ridge.
“Water is too important in the west to leave any rock unturned,” he said.
“People say we have a good amount of water here and we do, but at the same token, the Sewer and Water Commission complains that we have a lack of a sewer to keep our water clean. If we lose groundwater, we don’t have any water.”
The Water and Sewer Commission has said the town needs to look at installing a townwide sewer system to replace the outdated septic systems that riddle the area.
Those systems are at risk of failing at any time, although there is no evidence that anyone’s well is currently contaminated. The town has not tested any wells for contaminates since it is up to well owners to test their own wells.
Tetra Tech completed a sewer feasibility study last year, which included stages of construction to help spread the cost out.
Binney said it is the town’s obligation to at least look into acquiring Blue Ridge water.
Councilors Barbara Hartwell and Vern Leis said they agreed that the town needed to get answers before it made a decision.
“I don’t think there is a question of need, we always need to have someone kind of a backup on our water,” Hartwell said.
Councilor Gary Coon said although he supported having Nalley look into the project, he had discovered through his own research that the cost of Blue Ridge water would likely be too much for the small town.
“I agree that we all want a clean, reliable water source,” he said.
“In my opinion to accomplish this we need to look at two main issues, how much do want to put this town into debt, how much debt do we want to impose on the residents of Star Valley, and how badly do we need the water.”
Currently, the town consumes roughly 200 acre-feet of water a year.
A study by Clear Creek Associated in 2007 determined that the town’s safe yield is 4,300 acre-feet a year.
“If accurate, we should not have a water shortage,” he said.
Even at build out, the town would still be using far less than 4,300 acre-feet.
“We have enough water in our ground to do without so we are not in dire straights like Payson,” he added.
Regardless of need, if the town decided it needed Blue Ridge as a backup water supply, the cost would likely go above a million.
According to Coon’s research, Star Valley would pay a one-time cost of $1,500 for each acre-foot of water. Plus, Star Valley would pay $621,600 to cover its share of Payson’s treatment plant and $15,000 annually for its share of operations and maintenance, based on figures from a Tetra Tech feasibility study prepared for Gila County in 2007.
In addition, Star Valley would need a way to get the water from Payson to Star Valley.
Tetra Tech’s study says there is a line from the Tower Well to Star Valley, which could be used to transport water at least to the edge of town. In addition, there are reportedly two, eight-inch water mains going through Star Valley that could transport water in both directions at once.
Coon said he could find no evidence of these two water pipes through town after looking at plans and permits from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
There is reportedly one 12-inch water main pipe from the Tower Well to the Rim Club.
“We would have to install pipes from the Rim Club to Star Valley,” he said, another added cost.
Assuming his research is correct, the town is looking at spending more than a million.
Binney and Councilor Vern Leis said despite these concerns, the town needs to know for sure what the true figures are.
“We need to finish what we started,” Leis said.
Once Nalley gets the data, the town will decide for certain what to do, if anything.
Leis said there might be money from the county to help offset the cost of acquiring a share.
“We really need to know what is available, how much we can we get and what our timeframe is to make that decision,” he said.