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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : local May 24, 2016

5/18/2013 11:25:00 AM
Budget cuts worry Verde water group
“I just think we have an opportunity to be less rigid than the WAC. That rigidity has been part of the problem.”--Doug Von Gausig
“I just think we have an opportunity to be less rigid than the WAC. That rigidity has been part of the problem.”

--Doug Von Gausig
By Joanna Dodder Nellans
Contributing Reporter

COTTONWOOD - The Verde Valley members of the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee have tacitly agreed to demands from Prescott and Prescott Valley to let them cut next year's membership dues in half, but they worried Wednesday that the budget will go into the red the following year.

Noticeably missing from the Verde subcommittee's second meeting was Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens, or any Cottonwood alternate or staff member.

Joens said in an email Thursday that she had to attend another meeting Thursday.

"We are excited to work with all entities and seek to work on a watershed-wide basis, and especially a Yavapai County basis," Joens' email added.

New Water Committee Co-Chair John Martinez, a Sedona City Council member, said he tried to get Cottonwood to send a representative.

"I called Diane and got no response back," he said.

Verde members expressed concerns Wednesday that they might not be able to reach a quorum at future meetings. They need four of the six voting members to attend. Wednesday's meeting also was missing the Yavapai-Apache Nation representative.

The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee, created 14 years ago to foster cooperation between the Upper and Middle Verde areas, has been struggling in recent months.

The Prescott and PV councils voted last month to tell the other members that they want their dues cut in half for the fiscal year beginning July 1 or they will quit. They argued there is sufficient carryover money to continue the committee's core work.

But that core list doesn't include refinement of the U.S. Geological Survey computer model of the Verde Basin that Prescott and PV officials say needs refinement before using it in the Big Chino sub-basin where the Prescott-area communities want to get more groundwater.

The County Water Committee members also agreed this year to form Verde and Prescott-area subcommittees that will continue to meet monthly, but the committee of the whole will meet less frequently. Its next meeting is scheduled for June 19.

The Prescott-area members have apparently not yet scheduled a subcommittee meeting.

Verde members said Wednesday that the budget will go into the red by FY2014/15, so they hope the dues go back to their usual about of about $1.07/resident.

They said the important work of prioritizing future water sources is coming with the new completion of a draft study of alternatives by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Martinez said Sedona will contribute 100 percent of its dues to the Yavapai County as well as Coconino County water groups. Sedona sits in both counties.

Yavapai County supervisors representing the Verde area, Chip Davis and Tom Thurman, also attended Wednesday's meeting although the five supervisors previously agreed they will take at least a year's break from being official members of the Water Committee.

Davis and Thurman said they won't vote on the Verde subcommittee during the coming year but will keep up with its activities.

Davis said he'd like to see the water committee adopt a policy supporting sustainable growth in the Verde River Watershed and send it to the supervisors for a vote.

The Verde subcommittee also talked Wednesday about whether to form a new subcommittee advisory group of local water experts to help the subcommittee with its work. They already chose to make decisions on a voting basis instead of the long-time consensus format.

"I just think we have an opportunity to be less rigid than the WAC," Von Gausig said. "That rigidity has been part of the problem."

The full committee already has a technical advisory committee, although the Verde representatives haven't been able to agree for a year about who to appoint to a vacancy in one of their three positions.

Joens wanted to appoint Cottonwood's new water resources director, Tom Whitmer, a former manager of regional water planning with the Arizona Department of Water Resources who used to represent that agency on the county water committee.

Davis and Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig supported appointing Bill Meyer of Prescott, a retired U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist.

Prescott-area water committee members actually fired Meyer seven years ago from the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) after Meyer criticized Big Chino studies by Prescott's hydrology consultants. Since then, all the Prescott-area TAC members have been employees of Prescott-area municipalities.

Davis and Von Gausig said last year that they oppose Whitmer because he's a municipal employee.

"It politicizes the process," Von Gausig told the Verde Independent in June 2012. "It is easy to see the results of that with the way the WAC has operated since three technical members work for WAC community members. We've gotten gridlock. We can't even run that (U.S. Geological Survey groundwater computer) model that we have paid for, because the TAC members are all aligned with the members of WAC from the Prescott side."

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013
Article comment by: @ water budget- agree on concept- -

Getting a better handle on the details of the issue makes sense.

In this case it does appear that some folks/groups have already decided that the budget is broken based on the large scope USGS model, and as evidenced by comments here, are out to force others to concur or face endless derision in a passive aggressive fashion.

Others such as yourself seem to be taking a reasonable approach and are planning for the long term possibilities of either more growth or the slower self regulated pace that has been evident the last few years.

Either way time waits for no one and to simply declare the budget broken and maintain that any growth, or even planning around the possibility of it is evil incarnate, it unrealistic and not in any shape or form progressive or problem solving in nature.

To do what you speak of might take years... so folks really need to realize that our concept of time in relation to water is really skewed... we are just a period at the end of a sentence that is but one of many in the 1000 page novel of the Verde Valley.

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013
Article comment by: Water budget a good place to start

To help make the best possible decisions, creation of a realistic water budget would be a good start.

A water budget will show us how much water we have coming into our regional aquifer, and how much water we are withdrawing from our aquifer.

If we are already taking out too much, we need to know. Overdrafting our aquifer will inevitably dry up the Verde River, and nobody wants that.

If we are not overdrafting, we need to know that too.

If we indeed have a water budget surplus, then we can justifiably allow greater withdrawal.

And quantifying that surplus can help us responsibly determine how much future growth we can reasonably accommodate without threatening the environment or sustainable water supplies for future generations.

Look, we are all in this together. Everybody wants to protect the environment and grow responsibly.

Let's use a water budget so we can start talking responsibly about growth.

Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013
Article comment by: Jon Doe

FYI: I walk the talk. Wife and I were both born here, had no children (figured we'd unselfishly make room for someone who had an extra, and don't regret it) because we believe the planet cannot sustain this growing population, and we don't suggest to any out of state friends or relatives that they should move here.

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

@ I Moved to a Small Town Hoping
Well, I'm not against economic growth, and especially not against restoration. What Jerome has accomplished is amazing and beautiful. Cottonwood's old town renovation also speaks well of city planners with vision and a can-do spirit. Just 4 years ago, the place was drooping and dying. I, too, prefer small towns, but that doesn't mean I like shabby and crumbling main streets with no prospects for those who, like us, don't want to migrate to Phoenix.

These revitalizations, however, make me wonder why those planners are now eying new housing development potential when so many starts are sitting barren. More people/more retail/more revenue isn't the only engine. It's simply the most obvious and the most wasteful. If Cottonwood grew smarter rather than bigger, the value of the land itself would rise. That would be good for existing residents and would limit the drain on water resources naturally instead of by arbitrary fiats.

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Article comment by: 'Elect people' must be reading another

Nobody denied the USGS model... they simply took it as the USGS presented it.

As was predicted by the 'heresy' post... you are now out for blood, foaming at the mouth about the posts.

Even the USGS admits the model has its issues do they not? We can all admit it is the best estimation/approximation that may have been done to date but it is also a portrait painted with a very very broad brush.

The key here is how the model is being used- one side see's it as reason to deny any concept of future development and is holding it up as a 'litmus test'? Really? This is not a black and white issue... there is a large gray area whether or not you like it.

Now please address the issue of how many people the valley can support and the date that we hit the tipping point. Per your vigorous and vociferous comments it seems that you should be willing to lead the exodus from here if you are part of that group. Unless you can give us the information requested and are willing to follow your own non-growth policy retroactively... your words do not hold much real meaning.

Simply examine the tone of the comments... that tells you all you need to know.

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Article comment by: Elect people with common sense

The absurd comments from wake up and wake up heresy show how important it is to elect people, especially in Cottonwood, with some basic common sense.

To suggest there are no limitations to our aquifer is absolute nonsense. To believe this is all a ploy to stop growth is delusional.

Accusing the USGS of BS is an example of the kind of disinformation we can expect from these people.

To those that deny the USGS water model: please tell us how it feels to take the low road. You are doing yourselves and no one else any favors.

Fortunately, the majority of people in the Verde Valley, including in Cottonwood, realize the USGS is the best most objective source we have for scientific information.

Fortunately, most of us realize the writing is already on the wall: without responsible planning we will dry up the Verde and many of our wells.

Rest assured those of us who care can and will do something about it.

Expect those that aspire to change the Verde Valley into a version of Phoenix will try to misconstrue this issue and throw out intentionally misleading red herrings, much like Prescott and Prescott Valley do. Its already happening.

Let this be a litmus test for our elected officials. Watch carefully where your elected representatives stand, including those without the backbone to take a stand one way or another.

Vote out those too blind to see, the deniers, those whos highest priority is to enable the special interests, including the self-serving bureaucrats who run Cottonwood.

Support candidates who are willing to make the tough decisions, the realists, the ones who understand what small town character means, the ones not intimidated by staff.

Support those who put the publics interests ahead of the special interests.

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Article comment by: You try and create a nice place to live -

for the people that live there, then more people want to live there... so you plan ahead for the possibility of that.

Planning ahead has traditionally been a positive trait to posses but these days less and less.

If planning ahead means constructing an iron dome over the valley and not allowing anyone else in after we let ourselves in first...then count us out.

Life has its own ebbs and flows, tides high and low. It will manage itself pretty well as evidenced by our very presence here in the valley we all care about and live in.

A tragic case of both sides of the issue caring about the same thing but seeing different paths to do so. Folks will just have to keep watching and see if the strict 'no-growth after our growth' idea or the planning ahead for whatever human nature brings idea make more sense.

We will go with whomever casts less aspersions, assassinates the least characters and seems most logical. At this point those saying the least seem to be doing and planning the most, 1 point to them.

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2013
Article comment by: Jon Doe

Human beings have ever more rapidly been soiling their nests, killing the goose that laid the egg, etc. Why expect anything different here? The Verde Valley will become a mini Phoenix if those ostriches with their heads in the sand who want growth at any cost just because it's easier than looking at the carrying capacity of the water supply. And anything for a short term buck, too, since that's easier than looking at what might protect the residents who already live here. Yes, they must protect the hoards who want to move here, too, because no one is evidently making enough money off those who are already here. The sky's the limit. Maybe we can all wear suits like in Dune and drink our own body fluids someday, too. Who needs the Verde River anyway? Certainly not people who sit in air conditioned offices in front of their computers all day and make plans for adding thousands of new residents to an already over pumped aquifer. By the way, I expect our elected officials to protect our (the people who live here now) property values and water, not some speculator's property who wants to make tons of bucks off selling land that jeopardizes those already here.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: I Moved to a Small Town Hoping

it would stay SMALL. I am an anti- growther. Big time. This is not my first move to escape a city or a burgeoning suburb wanna be big.
Worst thing is, I don't know where to look next that isn't into this greed, money take all growth syndrome. I just want my farm, a small town and we don't argue or bicker over resources because we are all wise about their use. Normal use isn't going to dry up the river. Adding a ton of people will, but adding a ton of people will add tax money. Yup, gotta fill those government coffers. To heck with why people want to live free flowing water.
Time to start looking elsewhere. The Verde Valley and Cottonwood in particular seems to have gotten greedy.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: 'Wake up'-that is heresy! -

But how often has the heretic been correct in historical terms. Many many times...!

Unless those that profess no-growth are willing to admit they are a result of the thing they seem to despise to their core... then as 'wake up' said... its all just a political power play by un-elected special interest groups that are simply politicizing that which they claim to be above politics.

Wise words have been spoken by those that will be called insane and unholy... the louder they are shouted down the more correct they might be.

Prepare for the assault, gird your loins and hold fast to your beliefs.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: Wake UP!

Wake up folks! The River is being used merely as a tool to try and stop growth. The USGS never said their model predicted the River would go dry in near future or even in 100 years as a result of pumping and if they were asked they would also tell you the model doesn’t have the capability to precisely predict with any accuracy if, when, where, or how much the River will be impacted from pumping. If truth be told, the climate has a much greater influence on the base flows in the River than any pumping that is currently occurring and we have been in a drought since around 1996. The prediction of current pumping causing the River to go dry in the near future is the intentional misinterpretation of the USGS’ work by a cast of self-proclaimed experts to stir up emotions in the masses. If Cottonwood’s absence at the “Sub-WAC” meetings is intentional then I for one am glad to see Cottonwood rise above the BS and take a leadership role in water. Maybe their example will set the stage for others to begin taking action rather than just talking about it and pointing fingers at those that don’t buy into their agenda.

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Article comment by: Does Slater Slater have a job?

He/she seems to comment on every single article the newspaper puts out! Always negative too. If you try and be positive for once, maybe the paper would consider hiring you.

Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Article comment by: Based upon the premise of

Arguments- there is no long range planning that will ever satisfy their needs.

Any hope for that was destroyed the minute a human being stepped foot into this valley. As soon as the first sip of water was taken from the Verde River it has been an inevitable decline into the pits of human caused water elimination. From which there is no return.

Our very existence is the reason for us to not exist.

We are an evil resource hogging, ground water exploiting scourge that should be expunged from the Valley of the Verde post haste ASAP!

Out damn human spots spots out! Cast the unto the valley of the sun where you shall bake forever in the merciless sunshine of a thousand fiery suns.

Once you have been withered to a mere husk of your soul you may slake your mighty thirst by licking the condensation off of the thirst busters of the inhabitants of the arid lands.

Really... When did the city become the evil red-headed step child (nothing against red heads..just figurative) of the Verde Valley... as we have seen mentioned it almost looks like it has become cool to dis the place.

Wheesh...why would a city want to associate or deal with folks that just seem to want to talk trash about it? When was the last time anyone ever say the city trash talking other folks... please give links or examples if you have them.

As concerned outsiders it would be great to know what folks are getting themselves into before moving here. That or maybe it will attract lots more folks... producers of those crazy TLC drama shows would love the drama drama drama that seems to exist here.

Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Article comment by: The only real solution to the water issue is- -

For the 'no-growth after our growth' crew to pick a population number and or an 'arrived in the valley by' date- and everyone not in the appropriate group gets to pack it up and leave.

Short of that everything else they post is simply anti-growth of any kind, denial of humans free will and legal rights, propaganda.

They lay this out as an all or nothing affair and they should be willing to stand by that if they really believe that is the case as they claim the USGS claims.

Until they walk their talk then the rest is really just a rhetorical roundabout with no exit to reality town.

Posted: Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Article comment by: Conservation is no substitute for responsible long range planning

Do not be misled by Cottonwood officials continuously patting themselves on the back about conservation while they turn a blind eye to the very real water threats in the foreseeable future.

Cottonwoods current leadership seems to think the conservation efforts they are now making, which are absolutely needed and valuable, will be enough to save the river and protect water supplies for future generations.

But everyone realizes conservation alone will not do the job. The steady lowering of our water table even with conservation is incontrovertible proof we are already exceeding safe yield and unsustainably mining groundwater.

Now thanks to the USGS we have the best scientific evidence available showing even with conservation and a reduced future population growth rate we will destroy the Verde River and dry up some of our main production wells.

This is the unmistakable conclusion from the USGS numeric model analysis recently presented in Camp Verde.

But Cottonwood did not attend that meeting, just as it snubbed the WAC.

Cottonwoods current leadership seems to be under the mistaken impression there is no long range water problem despite the scientific evidence.

Conservation does not replace the need for cooperative and responsible long range strategic planning.

Everyone knows this, except apparently Cottonwoods current leadership, which seems to be in denial.

If not using the best science to inform policy, it would be nice if Cottonwood shared with everyone else exactly what they are using.

What is their source of predictive information if not the USGS?

Dan Leuder? Tom Whitmer? A Ouija board?

Just hope for the best and let future generations figure it out?

Maybe thats why they dont want to attend WAC or VRBP meetings. Maybe thats why they try to deny the legitimacy of the USGS.

Maybe they figure facts that conflict with their big city growth agenda are, well, inconvenient. And should be ignored.

But Cottonwood is not Phoenix. The Verde Valley has no access to SRP or CAP water. Cottonwood is not even Prescott with the Big Chino. All we have is right here under the ground, and thats it.

We all must realize that it is irresponsible for Cottonwood to try to go it alone. It is dangerous for them to not use the best science to inform policy.

Make no mistake about it: by ignoring its neighbors and the science, Cottonwoods current leadership threatens the river and future generations in the Verde Valley.

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