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Friday, May 28, 2010

Payson OKs IGA selling Star Valley its own wells

By Matt Brabb
Connection Editor

The Payson Town Council voted unanimously to authorize the sale of three wells to the town of Star Valley during last week’s regular meeting. The wells lay within the town boundaries of Star Valley.

The Tower Well, which has been at the heart of the friction between the two towns, was not included among the wells Payson offered to sell.

The proposal appears to be the Payson version of the culmination of the negotiations that the two towns agreed to undertake to conclude an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) regarding water rights back in February.

Representatives from the town of Star Valley declined to comment on the progress of the negotiations.

There were three main objectives contained within the proposed IGA. First, the town of Payson would strive to provide an emergency backup water supply for Star Valley. Second, it would sell and transfer the rights to groundwater wells which potentially draw water from the Star Valley aquifer. And third, it would attempt to develop an agreement which would mutually and respectively limit withdrawals beneath Star Valley that would not exceed an agreed upon yield.

The proposal passed by the Payson Town Council did, in fact, touch on all three objectives.

In section 8.6 of the resolution passed last week, Payson agreed to provide a backup water supply for Star Valley in the event of an emergency or a planned water outage. Further, they agreed to “provide the appropriate agreement, contingency plan, and any drawings needed.”

The second objective, that of transferring water rights to Star Valley from Payson by means of existing wells controlled by Payson within Star Valley was also dealt with. Payson is offering to sell three wells to Star Valley for $99,201. In order to buy wells PW-1 and PW-2, Star Valley must agree to pump no more than 323 acre-feet of water combined between the two wells. To purchase the Pinegate Well, Star Valley will be limited to pumping no more than 57 acre-feet per year.

The question as to why the town of Payson would put restrictions on how much water Star Valley would be allowed to pump from wells that exist within the boundaries of Star Valley is unclear. Indeed, there is some question as to whether the town of Star Valley will have access to PW-1 and PW-2 due to easement constraints.

The third objective of the IGA, coming up with an agreeable limit to the amount of water that the town of Payson will be allowed to draw from the Star Valley aquifer (not to exceed an agreed upon quantity), resulted in no change to existing conditions.

Section 8.2 of the proposal states that “Payson agrees not to pump water from the Tower Well at a rate in excess of 530 gallons per minute annualized, and not to exceed 855 acre-feet per year in production.”

The limit of 530 gpm, and the 855 acre-feet per year were the original limitations placed on Payson when rights to water via the Tower Well were purchased by the town in 2006.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans and Payson Water Department Manager Buzz Walker have both acknowledged that reducing the figure of 855 acre-feet per year, a number that accounts for nearly one-third of Payson’s safe yield water supply until water from the CC Cragin Pipeline arrives in 2015, would be legally impossible.

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