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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local August 19, 2014

2/14/2013 9:59:00 PM
Ag community could try to derail water legislation
Tobin also sponsors tax credit, immigration bills
Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin is sponsoring only a few bills this year because of his leadership position.

Outside of his major water legislation, he's sponsoring two bills seeking tax credits for economic development.

He's also drafting a House of Representatives memorial with suggestions for federal immigration reforms. It doesn't yet have a bill number.

The memorial urges Congress to offer illegal aliens a path to two-year work visas instead of full citizenship. A one-percent tax on their gross income would go to a border defense and maintenance fund.

House Bill 2342 would increase the amount of annual income tax refunds that the Arizona Commerce Authority could award to companies for research and development. It's geared toward helping smaller businesses, Tobin said.

HB2646 would put some of the state's in-surance company premium tax revenues into a fund to encourage improvements to the health care system, Tobin said. The fund would include private capital. Insurance companies with innovative ideas could then apply for financial support to implement their ideas.

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

Local water officials are being urged to rally to the support of Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin's major water legislation, in the face of potential opposition from the state's agricultural community.

House Bill 2338 is scheduled for a House committee hearing on Tuesday. The bill allows local governments and private entities to create public "regional water augmentation authorities" that would help augment local water supplies and infrastructure by allowing members to pool their efforts.

The bill seeks a $30 million general fund appropriation this year for the state's Water Supply Development Revolving Fund, which has never received any money. The augmentation authorities could then get low-interest loans from the fund.

City of Cottonwood Natural Resources Director Tom Whitmer, who worked for the Arizona Department of Water Resources for 14 years, sent out an email to Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee members this week urging them to call legislators about their support for the bill. He heard the ag community is voicing opposition to the bill to legislators.

"The best thing they can do right now is try to inform legislators of the reality of what this bill can and cannot do," Whitmer said. "There's a lot of misinformation out there."

Water officials throughout the state already have registered their support for the bill, including the Municipal Water Users Associations for northern Arizona, the Phoenix area and the Tucson area, Whitmer noted. So have local communities such as the Prescott Valley Town Council.

"For the first time in forever, we actually have a united front between rural and urban interests," he said.

Whitmer's email to the county water committee members includes a document attributed to agricultural interests that cites concerns about water augmentation authority powers such as eminent domain and taxing authority.

The bill stems from recommendations made by the Arizona Water Resources Development Commission, whose members included ag lobbyist Bas Aja, director of public policy for the Arizona Cattlemen's Association.

Tobin said Aja opposes the bill because of concerns that too much money would go to urban projects, but the loans would go to projects with the most need so rural projects should do well.

The bill limits the eminent domain powers in response to Aja's concerns, Whitmer said, and it doesn't grant new taxing authority. Aja was not available for comment Thursday.

"This is developed after two years of study bringing all the water groups together," said Tobin, a Republican from Paulden. "It's likely the most comprehensive water legislation since the (1980) Groundwater Act."

A subcommittee of the temporary Water Resources Development Commission identified at least 34 proposed water supply expansion projects across the state that would cost a combined $3 billion over the next 50 years.

They include the ongoing U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study in Yavapai County to identify future water needs and supplies, called the Central Yavapai Highlands Water Resource Management Study. It has concluded this region will need about 45,000 acre-feet of new water supplies by 2050. Current use is about 73,000 acre-feet.

"We now know we have a water problem," Tobin said. "To not solve it would make it worse."

The water authorities could buy and sell property and water rights; lease, exchange, transport and deliver water; build and operate water projects; issue revenue bonds; and exercise eminent domain powers on private land for water projects (except well sites).

The bill would help local water providers get financing for projects to expand water supplies, and make it easier for local governments to work on projects with private entities, Prescott Valley Water Resources Manager John Munderloh said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: An American

Keep the government out of it, all the water in this country is already owned by either private citizens or the federal government. What the government does with their water is for our elected officials to decide as per our approval. What private citizens do with their water is for them or a court of law to decide, not some newly created entity. When you allow the government to over-step its authority and dictate what one does with their private property, then you have a problem. Once the "regional water augmentation authorities' take hold and start over-stepping their water use, who will stop them, do you have the type of money it would take to make the government comply? Water is a huge problem and the feds regularly over-step their authority, this will be no different................. The solution to a water shortage is to stop allowing increased use, there are many towns and counties in this nation that understand this. Creating a huge and powerful government managed authority will not make more water, it will only make the fight for water more costly for the private land owner.........Our local cities and counties will and do not accept that there is not enough water, they only know that if one more house can be built they will get $3k in tax revenue forever. They have no reguard for you or I, or the general welfare of this nation, most are power seeking robots that wish to be re-elected and can smell tax revenue from miles away........Growth is not always a good thing, but the government can not live with the money it currently has, so it meddles with things like this, and the loser is always the private land owner. What will they do when their is no more water and no more revenue increases???

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Whats YOUR solution?

@ "An American". With all due respect¡K Are your rights in the un-adjudicated Verde basin, in which case you have claims not rights? How much would you sell them for? :) Yes they are probably very likely to end up as real rights and good ones. You also must know that the Verde River is over-claimed by a lot. So all the claimants will not all walk away with real rights when the adjudication is done. It is impossible because there is not enough water in the system to satisfy all the claims (. Groundwater is different ¡V nobody ¡§owns¡¨ it until they extract and use it (¡§reasonable use¡¨). This bill does not change Arizona water law or usurp your water rights.

But to your point: LOOK - from the bill itself - ¡§¡Kthe authority shall not exercise the power of eminent domain to condemn water, water rights, wells, existing water systems, land owned by another governmental entity, or land for the purposes of drilling wells or to acquire electrical facilities.¡¨ So with the actual language of the bill before you now, how can you say with a straight face that this bill is going to allow theft by eminent domain of 45,000 acre feet of water? An uppity teenage lawyer could crush someone who tried to use this bill to condemn water rights through eminent domain. Not even a case. I think you did not bother to actually read it. That¡¦s the problem with ¡§experienced¡¨ people ¡V sometimes they think the already know it all and don¡¦t bother to look! I don¡¦t care how much respect you deserve, I¡¦m sure you deserve more than me, but let¡¦s take ourselves out of it okay? It¡¦s not about us. This bill and the process deserve your respect, or at least you should read it before you try to spread fear-tactic rumors.

So what is your solution to the water issue? Is it to say there isn¡¦t a problem anywhere never was never will be¡K (in the face of data)? Is it to say ¡§not my problem¡¨? What do you propose we do to plan for the future?

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: An American

@ Whats your solution: I've been around awhile, Actually own a nice amount of water rights, some are even pre-statehood. I also have teenagers, you know those argumentative know-it-alls who read something somewhere and now are an expert, so I am not suprised at your attempt to educate me on a subject that I'm well versed in. Next time try a little respect if you seek any from me.....

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Whats YOUR solution?

@ no way - huh? I don't think you read the bill.

@ an American
They would BUY IT from someone else. You do realize that water rights can be purchased don't you? You do realize that there are water rights to be had outside of the county don’t you? You do realize there is a funding mechanism included with this bill don’t you? Just because theft is your only way of thinking doesn’t mean society will steal for you. You, me, all us are going to have to PAY for this water. And it won’t be cheap. Just like sitting on our rear ends like frightened losers won’t be cheap either.

@ John Wayne SRP already has most of the surface water rights from around here. CAP wants to secure Colorado river water - this bill and the funding mechanisms would help rural AZ join forces and compete for that water against CAP and the big boys - Thus your inability to take any action, your deer in the headlights approach, because you are so afraid, will backfire and we will be left with nothing except our envy of the big cities that beat us to the punch because we were too scared to act. Your good intentions eventually leave us in a public water crisis (yeah maybe you’ll be dead, like John Wayne is dead, but think about it – he had some foresight and vision… do you?). Don’t let fear kill your ability to act. If you can cite something specific in this legislation, tell Tobin and fix it. Owens Valley my arse…. That’s a false comparison. And as far as your comparison there’s nothing to stop that now! In fact, if anything at all, this bill is a way to STOP an “Owens Valley” happening here.

@Tom Steel - you say it only would benefit ranchers, but then you say we are in a deficit already. Could not some of the new water help with the deficit? Also, we have grown since we have known about the existing deficit. Why do you magically think growth will not continue anyway (over using the supplies we now already have in deficit)? Do you actually think your whining will stop growth? Another deer in the headlights voter…. You think doing nothing is NOT something don’t you?

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: I worked for it, you take it? NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

"exercise eminent domain powers on private land for water projects"

Lets start by taking land away from all our elected officials. We'll give them a fraction of current depressed values (like they plan to do to us). It should be almost free!

I used to think that one day govt. would push us too far and we would finally all push back, but they have beaten us down so far that we'll just let them take our homes to lay water pipe for their developer friends.


Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Leslie Hoy

The Citizens Water Advocacy Group opposes this bill in its current form. The primary reason for our opposition is that one public entity could form a district with one private entity. Each would appoint a member of the board of directors (not clear whether there would be other directors, but they would also be appointed). Citizens theoretically could have input on the directors appointed by the public entity but not on anything to do with the private entity. The district would not have taxing authority but would raise money through the sale of water. HB 2338 currently specifically exempts the augmentation authorities from oversight by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
So, suppose Prescott Valley formed an augmentation district with a private company. P.V. and the private company would determine the cost of the water sold to P.V. residents and any other water customers of the district. The cost of the water would have to cover the total cost of the bonds and any other financing the water district acquired to buy water rights, construct any pipeline and transport the water to the customers. In addition, the cost of the water would have to include whatever profit the private entity deemed appropriate. The bill is specifically written to give the public little or no recourse when it comes to the board of directors, the bonding authority, and the sale of water by the augmentation district. Read the bill yourself at http://openstates.org/az/bills/51st-1st-regular/HB2338/.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: pete white

heres Tom Steele spouting off again without providing any proof. I'm still waiting for him to prove his allegation that the clerks at the counter at our local USPS are all making $75,000+ per year. Where you at Tom?

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: An American

BTW, The title of this artical seems to imply that the responsible group, (The Ag. producers) are some how the bad guys here, and shows the writers need to futher devide the people who feed us from the people who eat... To keep enticing growth to make a few more tax dollars, with no reguard of how to water them or feed them is the plan of the irresponsible.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: open book

An American and John Wayne make very good points here. When someone receives water, someone else looses water. It should be a pretty good wake-up call if the agriculture community (people who really need water) is opposed to water legislation.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Finally the state is moving to, in principle, assist rural areas with water development. However, this is a bad bill.

Could it be used to avoid a vote on the Big Chino Pipeline? Local water managers deny that, so how about an amendment explicitly stating that?

An authority with broad powers can be created by resolution, by one city and a private party, without public input. It can then commit the public to huge expenses WITHOUT PUBLIC INPUT. This is taxation without representation.

Why should the bill permit projects that are not consistent with existing water policy?

This bill needs amendments. Urge your legislators to vote NO.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: consider this

"A new taxing authority". Just what we need. Where do I vote NO.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Expand what water supplies? Spending more tax dollars to benefit who? New subdivisions that benefit the rancher - developers? We are using about 15,000 acre feet more than nature is supplying every year. That means with no new construction we are still loosing water every year. Everywhere new wells have to be put in due to dropping water levels. This is just another grab for power and taxes to benefit a few with power. Wake up people!

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: John Wayne

"...theese new water authorities could buy and sell properties and water rights (in Yavapai County)...transport and deliver water (I wonder where Phoenix, Tucson, CAP and SRP want to buy and transport water)". Hold on - Yavapai County the big city boys will be coming to visit you soon. If you want to know how it works -- just google "Owens Valley" in California.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: An American

And just how will the central yavapai highlands find 45,000 more acre feet of water with out taking it from someone else??? Got to love that "eminent domain" clause. Pretty soon we will have nothing, it will all belong to the state...This is a bad idea and I urge everyone to oppose it.

Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013
Article comment by: no way

This is nothing but a power grab designed to make it easier for government to take property they want by eminent domain.

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