Engineer Rebuts Criticism Of Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District

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In the March 20 Roundup Sam Schwalm listed four points as evidence the Pine-Strawberry Water Improvement District (PSWID) is not operating in the best interests of their customers. Most of the evidence Mr. Schwalm used was incorrect or misleading. As district engineer for the PSWID, I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Schwalm’s letter. This letter responds to Mr. Schwalm’s first two points.

1) Schwalm claimed PSWID purchased the Strawberry Hollow Well from a local developer for $450,000 at twice the appraised value, leaving the developer with rights to half the water and physical control over delivery of water to PSWID.

In fact, the 240-foot-deep, 25-gallon-per-minute Strawberry Hollow (SH1) is located on private property and continues to provide water to Strawberry Hollow. The well sold to the PSWID (SH2) is 720 feet deep and can produce approximately 46 gpm. This was the first deep well in Pine that I am aware of. The drilling effort was costly and encountered large caverns (Pine’s Kartchner Caverns?). I believe the developer drilled this well to find a deeper source of water that could solve the recurring water shortage in Pine. The bankers for PSWID agreed that the final cost for SH2 was appropriate, including a filtration plant, 2,300 feet of two-inch water line, a booster pump to deliver the water to the 300,000-gallon storage tank north of Pine, and fee title to the land holding the improvements. The PSWID can deliver the water from this tank to any other part of the district. Except for a mutual agreement to sell water to Strawberry Hollow in the event of an emergency, the system is completely controlled by the PSWID.

2) Schwalm claimed a local developer wanted

PSWID to purchase the Milk Ranch Well, but it couldn’t produce a drop of water, so PSWID spent $150,000 to improve the well before buying it for $570,000 — three times what it would have appraised for had it been in working condition to begin with.

In fact, this well, now designated as Milk Ranch No.1, is 1,050 feet deep and can produce approximately 250 gpm of water. At high rates of pumping, a significant amount of sand is pulled into the well with the water, filling the bottom of the well and damaging the well pump. The least costly solution to the sand issue was to determine the maximum yield before sand becomes a problem.

Through pump testing, this yield was determined to be 85 gpm, hardly a non-functioning well. The cost to the PSWID for this testing was beneficial in that we found out the aquifer could yield approximately 250 gpm, providing the sand issue is controlled. Milk Ranch No. 1 is currently being developed to convey water to the 300,000-gallon storage tank north of Pine. At that point, it can be delivered to any other part of the district.

The PSWID purchased more than a well. The cost included the well, 7,000 square feet of land out of the Pine Creek Floodway to construct the storage tank and booster station, and clear access from the well to the storage tank. In a second installment.

By investing in new capital improvements and improving the existing system, the PSWID board has more than doubled the water supply, eliminated water hauling costs, and provided assurance to their customers that, when they turn the faucet on, water comes out. I believe most of the PSWID customers who remember the old days will agree that their accomplishments are praise-worthy and they are operating in the best interests of their customers.

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