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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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3/20/2013 9:59:00 PM
Water group agrees to change structure
Water group will keep current budget
The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee agreed Wednesday that its members will continue to contribute the usual amount of money to the committee's budget during the next fiscal year, even though the committee's structure has changed.

Contributions are roughly equal to $1 for each resident of each municipality per year. The county contributes $1 for each resident outside of the incorporated areas.

Prescott Valley Town Council Member Lora Lee Nye and PV's Water Resources Manager John Munderloh favored zero contributions this year by cutting out items such as more work on the USGS computer model of the Verde River Basin, Upper Agua Fria River data collection and educational materials.

"The commitment has gone down, but the budget hasn't," Munderloh said.

Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens countered that the commitment is doubled with two subgroups and twice as many meetings. She wanted to leave the contributions the same.

"It's easy to go down (in contributions), but it's harder to go back up," County Supervisor Tom Thurman added.

Sedona representative Brent Bitz said the committee needs to spend the money necessary to make everyone happy with the USGS computer model.

"Otherwise we're telling everyone, 'Well, we spent millions but it's never going to be used,'" Bitz said.

The committee already gave the USGS $40,000 to run several population growth scenarios on the model and see how they might affect local water supplies.

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig said taking back that money would be a statement that the committee doesn't want to use the model.

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee agreed Wednesday to meet less often in the coming year in an effort to get along.

"We're not splitting on many things," Water Committee Coordinator John Munderloh said. "It's a trial period... to allow ourselves to prove our value in these other areas."

The "other areas" are anything other than using the U.S. Geological Survey computer model that might hint at what Prescott-area groundwater pumping in the Big Chino Aquifer could do to the Upper Verde River.

After a decade of studies and field work, the USGS was ready to run the model and see how several future population growth scenarios might affect the Upper Verde.

But Prescott and Prescott Valley members of the water committee requested stress tests and refinements of the model first, so the committee spent most of 2012 working on that.

"We really weren't accomplishing much the last year," Prescott Valley Council Member Lora Lee Nye said.

When those tests were done, Prescott-area officials said they still didn't want the committee to run the model. Prescott City Council member Steve Blair, who co-chairs the committee, said there's no hurry since population growth has slowed and Prescott has no plans to build its pipeline to the Big Chino Aquifer for years.

The water committee went along with the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors' unanimous vote to create water committee subcommittees for the west and east side of the county that will meet separately on a monthly basis. The full water committee will meet only when needed.

The county supervisors will leave the water committee, so it won't have any representation from unincorporated areas. Committee Coordinator John Rasmussen will keep the county informed.

The changes will be in effect for a year and then the committee will review its structure again.

"I think we'll be able to learn how to work with each other in slower increments," Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis said. "We will put away the disagreements we've had and focus on things we have in common."

The committee is working closely with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on a study about how to meet its future water needs, for example.

Davis noted that the Board of Supervisors created the water committee in 1999 to "tear down walls" between the two sides of Mingus Mountain, but the walls are going up again. Davis is the one of the few water committee members who was involved from the beginning.

Not everyone was excited about the changes, but they agreed to go along with the majority. The committee operates on a consensus.

"I'm disappointed it's come to this," Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens said.

"We'll get two sides that are not going to talk," Dewey-Humboldt Town Council Member Mark McBrady said. "We're going to find ourselves in a worse situation."

Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig agreed with McBrady that there are lots of unanswered questions.

"It almost certainly will evaporate at the end of that year," he said of the water committee. "I can't see a way that it's going to work better."

But Von Gausig said he trusts Davis' instincts and will try the new format.

County Supervisor Tom Thurman said he would have voted to dissolve the committee if he didn't think the temporary plan would work.

"We either move forward or we stop," Nye said. "What do you prefer?"

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Article comment by: Louis Bellesi

I was hoping for something more innovative and creative from our new group of supervisors to solve our water resource allocation management issues. Instead we all we got was let's divide the WAC and let each side of the mountain do as they want. We've already been doing this essentially for five or more years and with the unanimous approval requirement to move ahead very little has been accomplished. I would rather see the BOS hire an outside management consulting firm to come up with one or more organizational suggestions as to how we could be managing our water resource. Instead it looks like the one year trial split will be permanently continued next year. Then continual bickering will continue until one side or the other goes to Court and the lawyers will get richer and our elected politicians will continue to posture to get reelected. All I've noticed from the politicos is that whenever they are asked to make a technical or scientific decision on water they either decide based on politics or declare that they aren't scientifically qualified to make the decision and turn to their technical advisers for obfuscatory cover. I'd like to see less money spent and more positive, well thought out actions taken.

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Article comment by: This is a Solution?

So this is the supervisors' solution to bring the two sides of the county together ? And now the rural areas have NO representation, specifically the Big Chino Valley/Paulden area that needs it the most. Unbelievable, the County will now have no responsibility whatsoever!.

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Article comment by: Ken Mino

Anyone care to bet that if running the model might tend to show that pumping in the Big Chino would have no effect on the Verde River, that all of the hand-wringing about the science and the endless delaying tactics would avaporate like ice on a hot stove? Or that the information wouldn't be trumpeted as proof positive that endless pumping would be just fine?
Or that anyone questioning the science, as is now being done, wouldn't be publicly humiliated?

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