The Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District appears to be running smoothly with Milk Ranch Wells No. 1 and No. 2 soon to be completed and 13 emergency generators purchased, but that is not enough for the watchdog group waterforpinestrawberry.
The group’s spokesman Sam Schwalm is questioning the validity of Stage 1 water level signs posted in the two tiny mountain hamlets throughout the summer.
PSWID board chairman Gary Lovetro says there is a simple and valid explanation of how the storage level signs are being managed.
“It was voted at the June 19, 2010 meeting that the signs are to be voluntary and the stages would be adjusted after 48 hours for one level and again after another 48 hours,” he said.
“The tanks have recovered very fast after the holidays — back to 85, 95 and 100 percent within a few days after every holiday.”
Since the district purchased the Pine and Strawberry water companies from Brooke Utilities on Sept. 30, 2009, water storage levels signs have remained at “Stage 1” or the least restrictive level meaning no conservation measures are necessary.
Schwalm, says his group is concerned that water levels in storage tanks on the Independence Day holiday actually fell to 66 percent and on Labor Day were at 62 percent.
Both the holiday storage levels the past summer would have previously resulted in “Stage 4” or the second most restrictive conservation level that asks for daily water consumption to be reduced by 40 percent.
Lovetro went on to offer even more information about what occurred during the past summer when water storage levels declined.
“There was a maintenance problem on one of the major tanks after one of the holidays and the operators kept the tank from refilling so they could correct the problem,” he said.
“The operators sometimes use the time after a holiday when the tanks are down to periodically do cleaning and maintenance.”
Lovetro said, “Of course Sam does not know these things nor does he need to know. He is not on the board nor does he work for the district.”
The board president also said that Schwalm and the waterforpinestrawberry group are “trying to make something out of nothing.”
As for the two Milk Ranch Wells — facilities that some argue will put an end to the water shortage woes the two towns that have long suffered — a 20,000 gallon storage tank is complete on well No. 1 and more than 1,000 feet of a distribution system pipeline has been completed.
When finished, the pipeline will be about 1,900 feet in length.
A booster station is also to be built that will aid distribution of water to customers.
At Milk Ranch No. 2, Aero Drilling, a Payson firm, has drilled a borehole to 426 feet and an 8-inch casing has been installed about half that distance.
Milk Ranch Well No. 1 was dug to over 1,000 feet and while engineers are uncertain how deep No. 2 must be, they speculate the second well might not have to be equally as deep.
The district also owns a third well, this one located at Strawberry Hollow midway between the two towns.