November 1, 2018


City delays source water protection plan approval
By Todd Adams Challis Messenger staff writer

Adoption of an updated source water protection plan has been postponed by Challis city officials until their meeting later this month.

Melinda Norris, source water protection specialist with the Idaho Rural Water Association, has been helping the city update its plan for the first time since 2004. There’s no fee for the association’s services.

The biggest change since then, Norris said, was the city’s addition of a well to the water system, making a total of four. That allowed the city to retire its older slow sand filters and chlorination system which treated Garden Creek surface water. The city still has access to that source and water right and can use it in emergencies, such as prolonged power outages, since the system is gravity fed. The city crew keeps one of the city’s two slow sand filter ponds ready to connect to the city water system in an emergency.

West Wells 1, 2 and 3 are on the Challis Golf Course and protected from future residential development involving septic tanks and drain or leaching fields, Norris said. The golf course homes are on the city’s water and sewer systems. However, the city’s East Well sits near undeveloped land outside city limits to the north and south. The county and city could grow in the future, so this well should be protected, she said. Norris recommended city officials file a copy of the updated 2018 source water protection plan with Custer County. If growth occurs, the plan will remind county commissioners and planning and zoning officials of the separate source locations of Challis’ drinking water supply, Norris said. That way, everyone can be good stewards of Challis’ underground water supply.

Councilwoman Mary Skeen agreed with the mayor’s suggestion to delay action for a month, saying she’d read the plan but needed more time to digest it, ask questions and discuss it. The plan is 55 pages long.

The new plan is a living document that the city can update as needed. Norris said she’s working with Deputy City Clerk Savannah Pedersen on a template for an annual water quality update.

“Most people don’t think of water until it’s suddenly not there,” Norris said.

Since certification of Challis’ original 2004 source water protection plan, according to Norris, the following has occurred:

A 10-foot high security fence was installed around East Well 1 and West Wells 1 and 2

Entering Drinking Water Protection Area” signs were installed to inform residents and visitors of critical groundwater protection areas,

West Well 3 was added,

City officials cooperated with Living Waters Ranch officials to have their on-site wastewater treatment system upgraded to prevent failure and spillage of effluent into neighboring Garden Creek

An annual water quality report was developed.

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