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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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1/13/2009 10:52:00 PM
SRP files suit against state, City of Prescott

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - In a move that Prescott City Attorney Gary Kidd said was "not unexpected," the Salt River Project filed a legal complaint late Monday against two state agencies and the City of Prescott over Big Chino sub-basin water.

SRP spokesman Jeff Lane reported Tuesday afternoon that the Salt River Valley Water Users Association (SRP) filed a five-count complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court against the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings, and the City of Prescott.

Among other things, the complaint maintains that ADWR's recent ruling on Prescott's application for modification of its assured water supply "illegally, arbitrarily, and capriciously" precluded SRP from participating.

In addition, the complaint questions the 1991 Arizona state legislation that gave Prescott the right to pump and transfer water from the Paulden-area Big Chino sub-basin. The SRP complaint maintains that the legislative move was a "local or special law prohibited by the Arizona Constitution."

After Tuesday's Prescott City Council meeting, at which Mayor Jack Wilson announced the city's receipt of the legal complaint, the mayor defended the city's stand on the matter.

"We think they're wrong, and we'll defend aggressively against it," Wilson said of the SPR suit, adding the State Legislature "exercised due diligence" in its earlier decision.

The city and SRP have long disagreed over the plans by Prescott and its partner Prescott Valley to build a 30-mile pipeline from their Big Chino Water Ranch northwest of Paulden to import thousands of acre-feet of water per year to the tri-city area.

ADWR's recent ruling that Prescott was entitled to pump 8,067 acre-feet of water per year from the Big Chino, along with the ADWR determination that SRP did not have legal standing to participate in an upcoming appeal of that decision, brought the dispute into the forefront.

SRP, a Phoenix-area public power and water utility, claims senior downstream water rights to Verde River water, and maintains that the Big Chino Water Ranch, which is near the headwaters of the Verde, would impair those rights.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2009
Article comment by: Angrier that ever at deceitful politicians

A pox on both Prescott and Prescott Valley politicians. Our only hope is to throw out of office the incumbents at the earliest possible time, and keep throwing out any politician who makes lying promises during their run for office and then does the opposite once elected.

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Article comment by: Throw Them Out Of Office!

Theres an awful lot of money at stake here. If the pipe line gets done, uncounted millions will be made by landowners and developers. The pipe line may very well destroy the headwaters of the Verde River. the propaganda machines of the Landowners/developers are out in full force trying to minimize the results of this water grab. I hate to see taxpayers money being wasted in courts as the Town Politicians attempt to fight a losing battle agaisnt SRP for their associates in Land Ownership and development. No one asked me if I wanted a pipe line, I did not vote on it, I did not see a referendum on it and I am mad. I will go to the voting booth this P.V. election and cast my vote against Harvery Skoog and any incumbent council member running for re election. They have had their day(s) and proven time and time again they are for the develop or die mentality of the Good Old Boys and NOT the majority of the folks.

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Article comment by: Can you beleive their audacity?

As of 2007, SRP owns or operates eleven electrical generating stations, seven hydroelectric plants, and has energy purchasing agreements with four major hydroelectric stations along the Colorado River, making them a major provider of electric service in the Phoenix area. Along with the six reservoirs along the Salt and Verde Rivers, SRP operates dams at the Blue Ridge Reservoir as well as the Granite Reef Diversion Dam and a number of canals, making the SRP a major provider of water to the Phoenix area. As part of its operations, the Association cooperatively manages a 13,000-square-mile "watershed" or natural drainage area in the mountains north and east of metropolitan Phoenix. This watershed feeds the Salt and Verde rivers that flow into the SRP reservoir system. SRP maintains a permanent Washington DC office located at 214 Massachusetts Ave NE # 310 Washington DC 20002-4958 The United States of America retains a paramount right or claim in the Project that arises from the original construction and operation of certain facilities as a federal reclamation project. Do the developer interests and their politician minions in Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley really believe they are going to infringe successfully upon the interests of such a financial and political behemoth? Oh well, I guess it is not their money which they are wasting.

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

SRP clearly has legal rights to the water flowing in the Upper Verde, this has been established for close to a hundred years. ADWR functions under an ancient , non-scientific, notion that there is no connection between surface water i.e. flowing Upper Verde and water beneath the ground (which, in reality, is just a slow moving portion of the surface water). If the Big Chino is pumped, the flowing Upper Verde will vanish... "Herb says the Verde River will go dry". That is what Herb Guenther, head of the ADWR admitted to John McCain recently (Courier article Dec-30-08). COP, PV and CV should have determined in a court of law if the water that they want to extract is really theirs, they invested in land and infrastructure before they knew for sure. Perhaps the water cart was placed before the horse in this case. The preliminary legal hearing at Yavapai College on the 9-11 next month should be interesting if nothing else!

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

sure a lot of misinformation in the comments. For those hoping SRP wins. Win what? The rights to groundwater? If so not only is everyone in Paulden pumping SRP water but every home in the tri-city area is too. We are all drinking groundwater that lays beneath the SRP surface rights. SRP did not have a say because they don't have the rights to the groundwater. If you want to root for the away team, please move away first. I am confident that Mr. Kidd is a competent and capable city attorney, but considering SRP will be represented by experts in water (who know nothing about municipalities) then it makes good sense for Prescott to have a water expert too. If not we would surely be throwing away money. We are in it now, and unlike those so willing to roll over for SRP, I would rather be a winner and keep drinking water. The people in Paulden have more to worry about if Prescott does not win. In the words of one Paulden resident, "they will either move the water to where the people are, or the move the people to where the water is". As for the developers everyone keeps talking about. I can only guess they are the Landowners who were here long before those of you making the most noise. If not for a developer of some sort none of us would have the home you live in. If not for the City securing a water source in the little Chino Valley over 100 years ago none of us would be here. There was a legal battle with Chino Valley the water you are all drinking now. Thankfully you folks weren't around to rally against the very water you are drinking. It is not so black and white as many of you seem to think. This is the way to water, everywhere and anywhere. It is how you got the water you are drinking. Water is worth dying for if you will die without. How arrogant you are letting someone do the fighting for you, and how ridiculous you are getting in the way.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: What do the City of Prescott and PUSD have in common?

Also "not unexpected" are the lawsuits to be waged against PUSD. Their inability to pull together proper educational programs will cost them BIGTIME. They choose to withhold funds and services? They are choosing to be sued and pursued in a court of law. And you thought SRP was Goliath - PUSD is in the same place, waiting to be brought down by David. And David is on his way....

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: For the Verde and Paulden

And let us pray SRP will prevail to save the Verde River and the wells for the residents of Paulden.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: $587,438 ... a year

The City of Prescott's budget, which is available on-line, has 2 categories for water-related legal fees;One is under Legal/Water and is $375,000. One is under a separate Legal/Water item, which can be also be used for Chino Water Ranch issues, was in last years budget $212,438. Total, $587,438. That's a yearly amount. The city of Prescott should take the option they have and sell the Big Chino Water Ranch back to the trust they purchased it from. That is allowed in the contract. They need to stop laying off city employees and be happy with Prescott staying the size it is. No one moved here to let it turn into another Los Angeles. Citizens of Prescott are only paying for future water for future developers. Let's fold our cards and leave well enough alone.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Rancher up north

The scoundrels who would pump the sub-basin and harm the Verde don't give a rat's behind about those lives that depend on that water or the safe-keeping of the environment! Pumping 8,067 acre-feet of water per year is a sizable trough with absolutely no guarantee that Mother Nature is going to cooperatively replenish it. Despite their fondness for colorful PowerPoint charts and manipulative statistics about the next 100 years, developers and politicians aren't clairvoyant, and have no crystal ball that gives anyone that assurance! For the sake of those who live simply and gently on the land in this part of the county and our sister communities downstream, one can hope that SRP can battle indefinitely. In these faltering economic times, it doesn't take much stretch of the imagination to envision the possibility of a financial collapse of developers and their investors, or other entities who empty their coffers backing up bad decisions made by leaders who lack integrity and common sense.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Don't kill the goose

If you think our community is in financial trouble now, just wait to see what will happen in the near future as this water war builds steam. The cost of importing water will have the reverse effect that our council is hoping for. The groups that believe our town will die without this water are probably sincere, but also nave. There must be a better way. I hope for all our sakes that common sense and proper planning prevail.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Shame on ADWR

SRP should have had the most to say when deciding on the amount of water for Preacott and others to remove from the aquifer. Who can blame them when the ADWR cut them off. Since when does the ADWR have the right to silence anyone in regard to their water rights?

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: They'll lose for sure.

This'll be over with pretty fast. SRP doesn't have much of a case up here. They don't have any water rights grandfathered in like they do in the valley. They're pretty much "the rich aunt from back east" who shows up late in court to contest a will. They'll lose for sure.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

You just thought your water bill was too high. Wait till you start adding the costs of legal battles which you will lose. To add insult to injury everybody told you this was the way it would go long ago. Water is a sacred cow here in the desert and every drop has been spoken for long long ago. What we're gonna have to do is tell the developers to bring their own water and build what you like--otherwise get used to the town being the size it is. Back off Mayor Jack. While posturing is good don't do it too long as you will begin to look like a looser which you aren't but playing stooge to the developers may rub off on you.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Steve G.

Mayor Wilson says "we'll defend aggressively against it". Well there goes more money (our tax dollars) down the drain. Guess what happens next folks, more employees laid off and money cuts. Bet this city hires some out-of-town Law firm to do the fighting. Take a look at all high dollar lawyers on the payroll of the City that won't be involved. Kidd should resign if he can't do the job that we citizens pay him for.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Solomon

This is David vs. Goliath. Phoenix agricultural alone uses 800,000 acre-feet per year. Prescott wants to import 1 percent of that amount and the Salt River monster rears its ugly head. Here's a better idea - shut down a farm or two and quit trying to grow crops in the desert.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Tom Steele

As Mark Twain coined; "Water's for fightin' and whiskey's for drinkin'." It boiled down to the selfish interests of Maracopa County vs the selfish interests of Yavapai County West of Mingus. The rancher power here is now developer power. The general population wants an assured water supply for people here now; not a pipeline for increasing the wealth of developers. I caution the paid-for politicians here to NOT spend our treasury on legal costs to defend the developer interests West of Mingus.

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Article comment by: Sick of ... politicians

The big dog has taken its first small bite. I believe that the state and affected cities ultimately will have to face up to the fact that the law favors SRP's stand. Moreover, SRP has the determination and resources to fight this battle until the end of time. The local politicians who are supporting this developer-desired pipeline will drain our community's financial resources if we taxpayers allow it.

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