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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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7/11/2014 6:22:00 AM
County cuts funding for water group
Supervisor Tom Thurman: If other WAC members want to keep a coordinator, they’ll have to pay the salary and benefits.
Supervisor Tom Thurman: If other WAC members want to keep a coordinator, they’ll have to pay the salary and benefits.

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier


PRESCOTT -- Without public explanation, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to drop out of the intergovernmental agreement that created the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee 15 years ago.

They are terminating their participation in the IGA as of Sept. 15.

The supervisors made the unanimous vote after conducting an executive session closed to the public. The IGA states that members must notify other members they are dropping out of the IGA by June 30 of each year, so the notification came a week late.

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig was among those confused about what the supervisors did, thinking the supervisors had resigned from the committee. It's the only group of its kind with members including this county and all its municipalities and tribes.

Calls to Board of Supervisors Chair Rowle Simmons, Supervisor Chip Davis and Supervisor Tom Thurman made it clear that the supervisors broke off the IGA so the county would no longer have to employ the Water Advisory Committee (WAC) coordinator and provide WAC administrative services.

"We're not quitting" the WAC, Supervisor Tom Thurman said. "We just don't believe we need staff anymore.

"The WAC is not dissolving, and we're not dissolving the WAC."

The IGA made WAC Coordinator John Rasmussen a county employee, and directed the county to provide administrative services such as taking minutes.

If other WAC members want to keep a coordinator, they'll have to pay the salary and benefits, Thurman said.

And the WAC co-chairs can schedule meetings, draw up agendas and take minutes, Davis said.

Von Gausig, WAC Co-Chair John Martinez and Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens said at the June WAC meeting that a paid coordinator position is necessary.

"If you are looking at actually doing something, if you don't have a coordinator you are in trouble," agreed Cottonwood Water Resources Director Tom Whitmer, who used to work with 24 water groups across Arizona as the rural watershed planning manager for the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

The supervisors' Monday decision move wasn't a complete surprise, since Davis had previously complained about the administrative costs of the WAC and the Upper Verde River Watershed Coalition. While Simmons and Thurman were reluctant to say whether the county would drop out of the Upper Verde IGA next, Davis said they would. Some supervisors have indicated they want to be involved in only one water group.

During county budget meetings, the supervisors decided to withhold their WAC dues and wait for WAC requests to help pay for specific projects.

"We are moving to more of a project oriented approach," Simmons said. "We are still intending on being involved with the WAC."

Thurman praised Rasmussen's work and the studies that WAC has completed, but he made a statement similar to that of Simmons.

"It's time for the WAC to morph itself into a boots on the ground, project oriented Advisory Committee," he said.

The supervisors' comments led the WAC to create an ad-hoc group that will help redefine the WAC's future efforts. Its first meeting is at 9 a.m. Monday at the Prescott Valley Civic Center.

Davis has led the supervisors' charge for changes to the WAC. He has repeatedly stated the committee hasn't done much of anything, although he softened his comments in front of the WAC last month.

Numerous WAC members from city and town councils defended the WAC's efforts at that June meeting.

"We didn't build anything, but we got a lot of information and you can't go forward without information," said Water Committee Co-Chair John Martinez, a Sedona City Council member. "Information is power."

Thurman said moving to a project-oriented WAC includes smaller projects such as large-scale rainwater harvesting demonstration projects. The Upper Verde group planned such a project but apparently hasn't been able to get grants to pay for it.

Davis said he also wants WAC recommendations about ways to conserve water such as buying development rights or reducing overgrown vegetation. The Upper Verde group is working on a demonstration project that would thin out bushes and trees.

Rainwater harvesting is on the list of ways to meet future water needs in the Central Yavapai Highlands Water Resource Management Study (CYHWRMS). The WAC is just wrapping up the second phase of the study.

With the help of local experts and citizens, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's three-year study concluded that the Verde Watershed in Yavapai County needs another 45,000 acre-feet to 80,000 af of water supplies from new sources for its residents by 2050, since the county's population could triple to 600,000.

The CYHWRMS study listed eight options for meeting future water needs. The next step for the WAC is to decide whether it wants to further analyze any of those options. Members agree that could cost a lot of money they don't have.

The study built on a decade of the WAC's research with the U.S. Geological Survey and Arizona Department of Water Resources that quantified local hydrology as well as various groundwater supplies and demands.

The studies found that, among other things, the Big Chino Aquifer supplies at least 80 percent of the baseflow for the Upper Verde River.



Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Article comment by: two cents

Too little too late, try pulling water out of your hat. All of this money being spent models, to point out the obvious. People don't want the truth or the obvious. Stick your heads in the sand and everything will get better for us folks downstream from the Big Chino.
We need more growth, just like Prescott. If we build more, we will get more water, just think positive and be happy. people just need to be more positive and everything will work itself out just like magic. Really pray and have faith and everything will be OK, oh yeah dont forget that bottle in the toilet tank, that will surely make all the difference we need.
Remember folks negative begats' negative and positive makes it rain.
just my two cents worth and without water we all have to move, but just think positive and all will be OK



Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: uncommon sense uncommon sence

If theres a paid position available to do nothing
I'm available.
If everyone would put a refilled plastic Coke bottle in their toilet tank we could save thousands of gallons every week.
Way to much trouble right?Takes to much effort and time.Who needs the stinkin water.


Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: Mary Heartman

Right. The County has to save every penny it can scrape together for a new jail Prescott doesn't really need. Water? Who needs a stinking coordinator who disagrees with Prescott's water needs?

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
Article comment by: Shot themselves in foot

Have to say these people had it coming to them, and they brought it on themselves by their own actions and especially by their omissions.

Remember this is the outfit that paid for the USGS to run their computer model, then refused to do it because they were afraid of what it would show.

Like specifically that we don't have nearly enough water around here to build out every private parcel and the state trust land available for development.

Pretty much all the available evidence points to the same conclusion, but still they refused to run the model. Even after they'd paid for it! Ridiculous.

And by around here I don't mean just the Verde Valley, but points upstream like Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley.

What these special interests want to do will dry up the Verde River. Pretty much everyone already knows this, but the WAC, dominated by Prescott, wants it to appear like there's no problem at all.

That's similar to the approach Cottonwood is taking, by trying to persuade us that the Verde River is "not drying up" even though its flow is trending lower and lower and lower. And by not making public the unsustainable water mining they are now doing, with ADWR reporting drops of 40 to 60 feet in their production wells.

So thankfully the County's taking the responsible approach here. Fresh start needed with a more balanced approach.

Our water policy should be guided by science and our shared values, not by what's most profitable for a minority of special interests.




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