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Board increases water lease cost

Sun Advocate reporter

On Tuesday the Price River Water Improvement District Board passed a measure (5-0 vote) to raise the price of a leased acre foot of water to $16 from the previous cost of $15.

The panel also increased the amount of water available from 1,500 acre feet to 1,700 during the irrigation season which runs from from April 1 to Oct. 1.

The motion was made by member Steve Rigby who indicated that he always thought the price was "too low."

"I don't want to be greedy," he added, "but I always thought it was a steal at $15."

There were no dissenting opinions, but district manager Jeff Richens (who does not vote) was concerned that the decision might preclude lessees (mostly farmers) from leasing water from the district.

"I think if you leave it at $15, we'll be the first to make that transaction. That's a dollar some of those customers may not be willing to pay."

The PRWID board last increased lease rates a few years ago when the price went from $13.50 to $15. The money earned from water leases goes to purchase water shares for the district (at about $2,000 an acre foot) as well as to to offset water share assessments, estimated to be around $12,000.

"An acre foot is a lot of water (approximately 300,000 gallons)," said board member Ben Blackburn. "Most of the large farmers have more water than they will need for that short season. I think we should buy as many shares of water as we can. We did it in Wellington years ago and that's why we had such a surplus of water shares."

At a meeting in January, the group spoke of raising the amount of acre feet available to lease from 1,500 to 1,700.

"If there is a drop in the amount of leased water, it will be compensated by the price increase," said panel chairman Richard Tatton.

According to Richens, leasing the shares puts water to beneficial use in the valley and produces needed revenue streams for the district.

"We'll have some people who will not pay the price increase," he said. "The guy who is leasing five shares will pay an extra five dollars but the one leasing 200 shares or more probably will complain. These transactions allow us to be responsible fiscally and make beneficial use for our consumer base."

Richens expects to sell all 1,700 shares since the long-range outlook is a dry spring and summer.

"I think people want to procure this water," he said. "Unless we have a really unexpected wet spring, they will need these shares."

It is estimated that between 60 and 75 individuals lease water from the district in any given season.

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