For Immediate Release, December 12, 2008
Appeal Filed to Protect Verde River
Groups Challenge State Agency's Decision to Include Big Chino Water
in Prescott Assured Water Supply
PHOENIX, Ariz.— In an effort to help protect the Verde River, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed an administrative appeal today on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter, and 11 people who live within the Prescott Active Management Area. The appeal challenges the November 12th decision by the Arizona Department of Water Resources to allow the inclusion of more than 8,000 acre-feet per year of water to be pumped from the Big Chino Sub-basin northwest of Paulden in Prescott’s Assured Water Supply designation. The groups and individuals are concerned that the proposed pumping will eventually reduce the base flow of the upper Verde River, destroying the first 25 miles of the river’s habitat and eliminating dependent wildlife.
“Prescott and Prescott Valley are ignoring the impact this proposal will have on the fish and wildlife of the Verde River,” said Michelle Harrington, rivers conservation manager for the Center for Biological Diversity. “They have refused to act responsibly to provide the public with a scientifically sound plan to address and mitigate negative impacts from their proposed Big Chino groundwater pumping on the upper Verde River. The Department of Water Resources is enabling this irresponsible action with its decision to include this water in Prescott’s water portfolio.”
The appeal states that Prescott has failed to show that the Big Chino water supply is truly an assured water supply and that it will be physically, legally and continuously available for 100 years, as required by Arizona law. The groups and individuals maintain that because of the likely impacts to the Verde River, lawsuits will be triggered to protect endangered species and federal and senior water rights. Growth projected by other state and local agencies and increased demand in the Big Chino Sub-basin also preclude the long-term availability of groundwater.
The constitutionality of the law that grants Prescott the right to withdraw Big Chino water is also called into question because it names a specific community and provides it special rights. Under Article 4, The Arizona Constitution prohibits special laws when general laws can be applied.
“Prescott and Prescott Valley’s Big Chino pipeline stubbornly mimics the Owens Valley pipeline to a young Los Angeles, which fed that city’s growth at the expense of its more rural neighbors,” said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club-Grand Canyon Chapter. “In this case, the rural community of Paulden is now at the mercy of rapidly growing Prescott and Prescott Valley and their giant straw. The state’s water resources manager has just sanctioned that straw.”
“This is an important case as the state grapples with the adjudication of the Gila River watershed, which includes the Verde River,” said Joy Herr-Cardillo, staff attorney for Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. “The scientific evidence to date strongly suggests that this water should be recognized as Verde River subflow, the use of which is subject to the jurisdiction of the Gila River Adjudication Court and subordinate to the claims of senior surface-water users.”
The groups and individuals are seeking a hearing.
The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest is a non-profit law firm dedicated to ensuring government accountability and protecting the legal rights of Arizonans.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Sierra Club is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservation organization with more than 13,000 members in the Grand Canyon Chapter in Arizona.