The city of Ketchum is continuing its analysis of whether a privately-owned hot springs west of town could be used to produce clean energy or as another public resource.
City Council members approved last week an extension of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Ketchum-based company Natural Energy Resources to cooperate on studying potential public uses of Guyer Hot Springs, a springs system located just west of the Warm Springs base of Bald Mountain.
An MOU between the city and Natural Energy Resources first enacted in May expired in late August. The extension provides a framework for the two parties to continue to conduct due diligence as to whether a public-private partnership could benefit Ketchum and make additional use of the geothermal resource. The extension expires on Nov. 30.
Guyer Hot Springs is controlled by Natural Energy Resources—directed by Ketchum attorney and businessman Brian Barsotti—and the Cimino family. Hot water from the springs is used to heat a small number of homes in the area.
City Administrator Jade Riley told the City Council that city staff have had several meetings with Barsotti to analyze the potential of the hot springs for additional uses. The hot water could be used for direct heating of buildings or for electrical generation, he stated in a Sept. 7 report to the council.
The city has asked Sun Valley Co. whether it has any interest in tapping into the springs, and some parties have suggested development of a public hot-water pool, Riley said.
The agreement will provide time “to evaluate potential public uses, production capacity/water rights, and high-level financial analysis,” Riley’s report states. As part of the MOU, both parties agree to bear the costs of their own time and expenses in the due-diligence process.
The city has set a goal of pursuing clean energy, Riley noted in his report. Federal grants would likely be necessary to develop the hot springs into a project benefitting the public, Riley stated. Establishing public ownership of the hot springs would increase the potential for receiving grants, he noted.
The city is also developing a proposal for Boise-based consultant Brown and Caldwell to help analyze uses and potential of the hot springs, Riley said.
Guyer Hot Springs has a long history. In the early 1880s, Ketchum entrepreneur Isaac Lewis and associate Henry Guyer developed the site into a bustling resort that featured a hotel, high-end bar and plunge pool. In 1927, retailer Carl Brandt bought the resort from Guyer’s heirs. Two years later, he built the Bald Mountain Hot Springs Lodge in downtown Ketchum, which featured a large pool filled with hot water piped in from the springs. That property is now the site of the Limelight Hotel.