Issue of: May 20, 1998  


Voters to decide fate of water bond

Storage tanks will improve fire protection

Express Staff Writer

m13h2o2.gif (8745 bytes)An existing 1 million gallon water storage tank on Warm Springs Road is almost invisible to passersby as shown by this photo. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Ketchum needs more water storage for fire protection. On Tuesday, the city will ask voters to let it take steps to remedy the situation.

On Primary Election day, Ketchum residents will vote to approve or deny a $3.4 million water revenue bond to fund construction of more storage units.

Currently, Ketchum has 1 million gallons of water storage capacity in its tank on Warm Springs Road.

The city is only 50 to 60 percent built out, according to City Administrator Jim Jaquet, and given growth projections, a 20-year time frame could require 3 million gallons of storage.

Right now, the city is 1.1 million gallons short of water storage standards that govern efficient fire protection.

Ketchum is one of six communities in Idaho with a class four fire rating.

Four is a good rating, according to Ketchum Fire Chief Tom Johnson, and an efficient, gravity-fed storage and distribution facility, such as the one proposed, would ensure that rating doesn’t drop to five, he said.

Dropping to five is a legitimate possibility, city officials are saying.

Sun Valley is classified as a four, and its water storage is 2.5 million gallons, two-and-a-half times that of Ketchum. Even Hailey, with a rating of five, has more than 1.7 million gallons of storage.

A solid fire rating benefits Ketchum homeowners when their home insurance bills arrive. For a property valued at $300,000 with a $500 deductible, the annual fire insurance premium could increase from $624 to $681 if the classification drops to a five.

The $57 price-hike is a nine percent increase.

Approving the bond shouldn’t cost Ketchum residents a penny.

The bond is to be paid back from revenues collected by the city’s water system, not by an increase in water fees or property taxes, Jaquet said.

Current water fees will constitute 65 percent of the bond. The remaining 35 percent would be paid through development impact fees from new projects that hook into the system.

m13h2o1.gif (10065 bytes)The two 1-million gallon storage tanks would be located on a two-acre parcel of Bureau of Land Management land north of Bigwood Golf Course.

The tanks will burrow into the hillside 900 feet from State Highway 75 in a draw opposite the entrance to the Ketchum Rural Fire Station.

The elevation and location of the site works with hydraulics to create a free-flowing pressure grade, and water distribution depends on gravity.

Water from the Big Wood well would flow into the tank to be distributed or stored for fire protection or irrigation projects.

In the low-water winter months, the tanks would shoulder the burden of water service for all of Ketchum, eliminating the need to operate the city’s other wells during that time, Jaquet said.

The area is also a wildlife migration corridor, heavily trafficked by elk and sheep.

"There’s no sense beating around the bush. It’s going to be affected," said project engineer Scott Bybee of J-U-B Engineers in Twin Falls.

Disturbance to elk routes would be limited to construction time, and would reoccur after completion during vegetation restoration, Bybee said.

The plan calls for a trough of water near the tank to entice elk to drink there year-round, without incurring the dangers of crossing State Highway 75 to the Big Wood River.

As for the sheep, when the tanks are built and buried, the grass surface above them would be an ideal site for them to bed down.

On Feb. 24, Ketchum City Council held a public hearing to discuss the necessity of the tanks with city residents.

The most substantial concerns voiced at the February meeting centered on re-vegetation at the site after the tanks are built and accountability for the process.

At that meeting, City Councilman Dave Hutchinson "guaranteed" a commitment to the re-vegetation process.

The landscaping budget, which totals $322,000, includes an irrigation system to ensure natural grasses will survive and the site remains free of knapweed.

The construction road will be removed upon project completion, and the buried tanks will be invisible, said project landscape architect Greg Sturtevant of the finished landscape.


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