June 23, 2011
I am Jack Purson at 148 Tano Rd. We are in the Aamodt Area (AA) and have only recently been informed of important details of the settlement and implications for our situation.
Due to a problem with listed ownership of our own well, I have been speaking with Steve Mastovich at the State Engineers office. I was alarmed by some of the details I think I have heard. These are details I had not heard previously and I wanted to reach out to TRA owners with my findings and opinions as it applies to our TRA/AA area. YOUR SITUATION MAY BE DIFFERENT!
NOTE THAT NOT ALL OF TRA IS IN THE AA. IF YOUR PROPERTY IS IN THE AA, AAMODT RULINGS WILL AFFECT YOU TO SOME DEGREE. WATER AVAILABILITY AFFECTS PROPERTY VALUES AND DESIRABILITY OF WHOLE NEIGHBORHOODS IS AFFECTED BY UNCERTAINTY OF FUTURE WATER.
The following points apply only to the AA. In addition to all the overarching generalizations that have widely been reported by the newspaper, I believe my summary below is generally true:
1) There is a well-drilling "moratorium" in the AA as of March, 2016. This moratorium sounds permanent to me.
2) If you have a vacant lot in the AA, you must have a legal water source to obtain a building permit for a dwelling.
3) The AA settlement will be finalized by the end of the year and will thereafter include the following points:
a) All existing wells will have specified limits on pumped volume and will be monitored by meters.
b) Existing wells may be replaced when necessary.
c) Existing wells may be supplemented by drilling another well, subject to the same total limitations as the original, "parent" well.
d) Each well will always have a designated number of households it services and that cannot ever be changed.
e) No new agreements for well or water sharing will be allowed. A well owner cannot legally sell their well water to another lot owner. Of course, selling a house with a well is OK.
f) Water can be transferred only within the AA basin, from certain old wells that are unused. Well water may not be imported from outside the AA. Caution: I'm not perfectly clear on this point.
g) The number of legally transferrable water from unused wells within AA is a very small, perhaps less than 20. This unused, transferrable water is currently unavailable now and will be very expensive if/when they are marketed.
4) I conclude that the number of new construction homes in the AA has essentially been capped by the number of existing wells plus sharing agreements at the final settlement date, assuming wells and not a regional utility are the only source of water.
5) A regional water service where the government supplies water to residences and fire protection in the TRA area is highly unlikely to be constructed because there are relatively few homeowners to pay for it.
6) After the final settlement, each well owner will be asked to choose an option about using their well water vs buying into the future regional water system, with that choice being binding upon subsequent owners of the well. There are additional water restrictions with choosing to forever use your well. This step comes later, perhaps next year.
Assuming that all of this is substantially true, I conclude that the value of vacant lots without a water source within the AA is going to be significantly less than it had been. The cost and time of obtaining new water would be very high, driving new construction costs far above market value unless that regional water utility is constructed.
To mitigate this and since a new well is out of the question, I further conclude that TRA owners of vacant lots would be wise to investigate new sharing agreements with existing wells before the final settlement. Like right NOW. I am not sure if such new agreements would split up the previously adjudicated water draw from a well but I believe so and depends on the situation. Contingent on when the well was drilled, the allowable water draw may be ok for one home but not two.
I was certainly not aware of most of this before two weeks ago and I previously felt like I was knowledgeable enough about Aamodt to not worry. I spoke with a realtor who has sold homes in the TRA area and they were also unaware of some of these details. Sometimes, one information source has details that another does not and one property owner has individual circumstances that another does not. It is entirely possible that I misunderstood Steve Mastovich, didn't get the correct context, or perhaps he did not have accurate information but this is what I think I know.
The bottom line is this: If your information about how the Aamodt settlement affects you is more than 6 months old, please do another examination. Some things have changed and details added that might affect you and your plans. It is true that each lot and each homeowner situation is different so please don't rely exclusively on my warnings here, but dig into your circumstances with the state engineers office and decide for yourself what is an appropriate action.
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