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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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9/17/2013 2:14:00 PM
Cottonwood's Tom Whitmer graphs Verde River base-flow

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter


Tom Whitmer, Cottonwood's Natural Resources Director, presented a power point presentation last Tuesday, punctuated by the statement that, "The Verde River is not going dry."

Whitmer's presentation contends that base flows of the river have remained static even though the river 7-day low flow volumes have been on a decline both in frequency of events and the duration of events in recent years. Storm events that generated heavy flooding during 1993, 1995 and 2005 were dramatic exceptions. A 7-day low flow for a stream is the average flow measured during the 7-consecutive days of lowest flow during any given year.

Whitmer also suggestion that the riparian demand, has changed over time. He showed pictures of Old Town from a point at the old Masonic Lodge near Verde Heights that also depicted the riparian Cottonwood tree canopy along the Verde River. A current photo shows a thick number of trees as compared with a photo thought from the 1930s when the number of trees was very small.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Article comment by: As with the Earth and

Climate Change, regardless the rhetoric, regardless the data manipulations for various agendas, the River will let us know who WAS right in about 50 years, or so.

What we will hear is either, "How could we have known...?" or, "See! I told ya so!"

One thing for sure now, though, is one cannot put full faith in the decisions and proclamations of a town looking to increase population and, therefore, its tax base.

See, "Prescott Valley."


Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2013
Article comment by: Nothing to See Here

To: "Attempting to Counterbalance...": I used the terms "greenies" and "no-growthers" not as a pejoritive aimed at Mr. Whitmer, but because these are the very terms he has used numerous times in public meetings to describe people who do not embrace his philosophy. His distain for these people is an embarrassment to my city, and it should embarrass "Attempting...", too.

If we must address science rather than just complain, how about the USGS groundwater flow model, or the USGS report on human impact, or the Clarkdale study? Not good enough? Then let's hear about Cottonwood's studies. Our city is studying these same things, surely. No? Just talking, talking, talking?


Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Article comment by: Leadership... We Need It

I recently attended a meeting hosted by Clarkdale about their groundwater modeling, and they also said that the Verde River is not "going dry". They also noted that riparian demand has changed over time, noting specifically the years at the turn of the century when smelter operations decimated all the trees in the area, and years when major floods took out much of the vegetation as well. Climate cycles were pretty clear over the years, too ... as were the projections that having been widely accepted about expected climate changes that the entire Colorado River Basin (including the Verde River Basin) will face in the future. They also discussed the impacts that groundwater pumping has had on the Verde River, and how those impacts continue to amplify over time.

So, it seems like Mr. Whitmer chose only to talk about certain issues relating to declining river flows, instead of addressing all the issues that impact it. No, the river isn't "going dry". However, without leadership from all the Verde Valley communities, we'll certainly lose one of the last perennial (constantly flowing year round) streams in the State of Arizona. It will disappear in some spots, and pop up later down the stream bed (making it "intermittant"). Not quite the Verde River I envision for my children.

Leadership folks. We need it. Unfortunately, constantly repeating the mantra that "the river isn't going dry" just encourages people to turn a blind eye to the very real impacts that are likely for the river. Perhaps that is Mr. Whitmer's goal, but I'm not sure how that serves our communities.


Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Article comment by: Bla... Bla... Bla

Whitmer has the biggest ego of anyone I have seen in government. He HAS to be the center of attention and he HAS to make a presentation about the same thing over and over. The city no doubt dropped out of the multi city discussions becuase Whitmer was jealous and could not be the center of attention and did not want to share the spot light.

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Article comment by: Attempting to counterbalance perhaps ?

To many of those that are not as measured in their rhetoric as 'nothing to see'.

Many folks use the threat of a dry Verde to fuel their agendas. So if one tries to counter that idea they are deemed a pro-growth anti-greenie. Then singled out as a heretic by the many no-growth and greenie groups.

If there was a flaw in his science or his data please point that out, but coloring the comment with personal feelings and character degradation just does more of what the river really does not need. Talk Talk Talk

Per the article- if the river's base flow has remained somewhat consistent even as the population of both people and trees has increased then where is the fatal flaw?

Maybe there really is something to see here and some don't want it seen?


Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Article comment by: Another reason why people distrust Cottonwood

And here you thought the mayor photographed on the front page of this newspaper posing with a grinning Ilchi Lee and his 50 foot woman was as bad is it gets.

Now add this doozie to the many reasons people today look at the city of Cottonwood and just shake their heads in amazement and distrust.

So Mr. Whitmer, where do we start on your latest bit of made-up fantasy?

How about this fact: over 90% of Arizona's natural surface waters today are gone. Either dammed up, diverted, or just plan sucked dry from groundwater pumping.

The USGS numerical model, by far the most complete scientific representation available of the Verde's hydrogeology, shows the devastating impacts of the "business as usual" growth model that Cottonwood seems to love so much.

Our wells are already going dry, or have to be deepened, as we continue to unsustainably mine groundwater that may be of Pleistocene age or older, water that may never be replaced in our lifetimes.

And Tom Whitmer would have us turn a blind eye to all this a priori evidence, would have us believe him over other sources with far more credibility and scientific expertise that he has.

Mr. Whitmer would have us believe that the Verde is somehow magically immune to all this.

Those of us that've lived here awhile know how absurd this fantasy really is. We don't need Mr. Whitmer's slide shows to know this.

In recent years we've already seen the Verde River go dry in stretches in Cottonwood, below the Verde ditch.

So could Tom Whitmer be any more wrong? Are we actually paying him to say stuff like this?

So just add this doozie to the incredible string of bad decisions coming out of Cottonwood in recent years.

Let's just hope the people wake up before it's too late and make start making some wholesale changes in this town. Starting with new and better leadership on the city council.

We need to elect new people who won't be afraid to start cleaning house with the paid city staff, and start turning around these incredibly bad choices.

We can do a lot better than this.


Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Article comment by: Nothing to See Here...

Mr. Whitmer loves to tell everyone that the river is not going dry. Well, nobody is saying it's "going dry." What the science tells us is that the river will become intermittent with increased groundwater consumption. While the climate has a lot to do with the flows of the river, so does human consumption, a fact that Whitmer cleverly obscures with his "explanations."

It doesn't take much thought or science to understand that if we consume groundwater, and if groundwater is the source of the river's base flow (which it unquestionably is), then our water consumption decreases the river's flow, gallon for gallon. USGS says this is so, DWR says this is so, the organizations working on river issues all say this is so, only Whitmer says it ain't so.

Why would this be? Could it be that his distain for "no-growthers," "greenies" and anyone else who would like to see managed growth is getting in the way of his judgement? Could it be that Cottonwood wants to grow as fast as possible, and that taking care of a river that could be harmed by too-fast growth is inconvenient?

Thankfully, most of Whitmer's Council is not stupid. They can see through his smoke and mirrors routine. They can see that all the scientific data says that Whitmer is wrong.

This doesn't mean that we have to stop all growth, but it does mean that we must do it in a responsible, measured way that takes into account the health of this incredible natural treasure in our back yards - the Verde River. Denial that we can harm the river is counter-productive, unsupported, and just plain silly.




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