Star Valley would have to build a $13.8 million town water system to install fire hydrants a consultant has concluded, giving the Star Valley Town Council a nasty case of sticker shock. Tetra Tech’s Garrett Goldman presented the estimate at the council’s Oct. 16 meeting.
The $20,000 study took months to complete.
“We can’t do the whole distribution at one time, but possibly partially, or not at all,” Tim Grier, town manager and attorney, told the council as a preface to Goldman’s presentation. He also pointed out the study creates the basis for a community water master plan.
Goldman said Tetra Tech asked the Hellsgate Fire Department what would be needed to install hydrants and drew up maps to establish the best places for delivery pipes, storage tanks and hydrants.
“There are only 33 fire hydrants in the area, so Star Valley is largely not covered,” Goldman said.
He said the study’s long-range plan already needs modification. “Star Valley did not have a water system or a map of that system when we started, so it needs to be updated to include those things.”
The needs of the fire district are based on the 2006 International Fire Code in regard to the size of pipe and amount of water needed to fight fires in both residential and commercial structures, Goldman said.
The consultants used U.S.G.S. maps, a 2001 aerial map created by Gila County, 2010 aerial photos from FEMA and the 2011 Google Earth map. Goldman said the study places a hydrant about every 500 feet on Star Valley’s roads, including Highway 260, which forms the community’s commercial corridor.
“With the maps we established where the pipes would go, making use of as many loops as possible for keeping the water available (in an emergency) and creating a redundancy,” he said.
He also pointed out that the study did not address easement and ownership issues in regard to where the pipes should go.
The consultants recommended installing 231 fire hydrants throughout Star Valley and 137,314 feet of pipe, plus two, 600,000-gallon tanks in the Diamond Point Shadows area and two, 2.25-million gallon tanks in Star Valley proper.
The $13.8 million cost covers just the “hard components” — the tanks and the pipes, not the land or the water supply, Goldman told the council.
The study’s estimate concluded it costs $1 for every gallon a storage tank can hold, so the four tanks represent $5.7 million of that $13.8 million price.
Goldman said the town could build the system in components, “The options are infinite. It depends on where the council wants to go.”
He added that if the council decides to move forward with the plan, the town should start by buying the land for the tanks, including several Forest Service sites that could take a long time to acquire. Once the town had the land and built the storage tanks, contractors could put in a trunk line from the tanks to serve the immediate vicinity. As money became available, the town could extend the trunk line.
While the Tetra Tech study focused mostly on fire protection issues, officials believe it could also serve as a guide with which to expand the water system.