TWIN FALLS — The College of Southern Idaho will move forward with buying Pristine Springs, a geothermal aquifer used to heat most of its Twin Falls campus.
Trustees voted unanimously May 9 to adopt a resolution directing CSI administrators to finalize the $2.4 million purchase. State legislators appropriated $1.2 million this year and CSI will pay the other $1.2 million using plant facilities money reserved for the project.
Buying Pristine Springs ensures the college will have geothermal water rights to continue to save at least $125,000 in heating costs per year, and it will allow for potential new lab and program opportunities for students.
“This is one of the best things the CSI board has accomplished,” board chairman Karl Kleinkopf said during a Tuesday meeting.
Pristine Springs spans about 400 acres on the Jerome County side of the Snake River, near the Blue Lakes Trout Farm.
It includes an aquaculture facility, farmland, a mile of riparian land along the Snake River, and co-generation combined heat and power facilities.
“Ownership of the geothermal water rights presents a unique and rare opportunity for CSI to obtain assets that will benefit the college and its future operations,” the resolution says.
The Idaho Department of Water Resources signed a letter of intent in December to sell Pristine Springs to the college.
The state water board took the property over in 2008 as part of a $26 million deal along with the city of Twin Falls and North Snake and Magic Valley groundwater districts to help manage the area’s water supply issues.
Purchasing Pristine Springs is “really exciting,” said trustee Jack Nelsen, whose zone covers Jerome County.
The college is interested in the property for the geothermal water rights, he said, and cash flow associated with the assets.
No tuition money is being used to cover the purchase, Nelsen said, and “we’re not tapping public funds.”
It’s also important to look at the long-term potential for new student programs in areas such as business, agriculture and aquaculture, trustee Jan Mittleider said.
Pristine Springs is a “major purchase” for the college, Kleinkopf said.
“This is a project that has been on the books for a long, long time,” President Jeff Fox said.
In 1978, then-CSI president “Doc” Taylor drilled a well on campus to utilize geothermal energy, he said.
“In fact, the hot water at Pristine Springs comes from the same deep aquifer that CSI has used for many years to heat most buildings on campus,” college spokesman Doug Maughan wrote in a Friday letter to trustees.
“The management of this geothermal water is not only important to CSI, it is vital to our ability to continue heating our buildings now and into the future. Until now, however, CSI has had no way of managing how much geothermal water is used at Pristine Springs.”
After the vote, trustee Laird Stone said he thinks the legacy of the Pristine Springs purchase will last for years to come. “It’s been a really good day for the college.”