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The rationale for water district

Meeting outlines what proposed board could and could not do

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By Bill Hess

SIERRA VISTA — The importance of establishing the Upper San Pedro River Water District was stressed Thursday.

Speaking to nearly 30 people at a meeting arranged by the Fort Huachuca 50, Rick Coffman presented the rationale why a water district must be approved by the voters in November.

The host of the event, Larry Portouw, who heads the organization that supports the fort, said the nine-member water district organizing board has been working on the project for a number of years. The appointed board has reached out to the community to gather information and concerns, which are being addressed in public meetings, he said.

It’s democracy in action at the local level,” Portouw said, adding, “The Fort Huachuca 50 supports the creation of the water district.”

When the organizing board was established by state law, Portouw was its chair. But due to personal reasons, he had to step down as the representative of the military community, with his place taken by Michael Boardman. Both are retired Army colonels and former post garrison commanders.

Coffman said the action of the organizing board is coming to a conclusion with the general election in November.

We are teed up and ready to go to the voters,” he said.

But if for some reason the two-question ballot matter — one to approve the district and the other to elect a seven member board — fails, the organizing board has until the end of 2012 to bring the issue back before the voters, Coffman said.

The organizing board has held public meetings in Bisbee, Hereford, Huachuca City, Sierra Vista and Tombstone to tell residents the goal for establishing a district and listening to their concerns during a two-round process.

The needs for the district are many, but succinctly, it will help ensure the federally protected river will continue to flow as conservation and other methods are used to address a 5,000 annual acre-foot deficit, he said. An acre-foot consists of nearly 326,000 gallons of water.

Eight people will be on the November ballot and another will be a write-in candidate.

While best estimates state there are about 20 million acre-feet of water in the aquifer, the continuing deficient will mean the important stream flow will dry up and the river will die, Coffman said.

The proposed water district and its elected board would have the authority to find ways to manage water to the benefit of both the environment and human habitation, Coffman said.

However, again he noted there are a number of things the district cannot do, which include establishing a tax without voter approval, metering private wells and ordering specific conservation methods.

The elected board could not dictate where a development will be located, but could offer help to developers in establishing water sources so there is no harm to the river, which is under the protection of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Without local people addressing the issues, the state and federal governments have indicated that if they have to, they will come in and dictate corrections, “which could be draconian,” Coffman said.

The local water district board, on the other hand, would have no right of eminent domain, meaning private property rights would be protected, he added.

In the past years, through conservation methods, what once was a 14,000-acre-foot-a-year deficit has been reduced by nearly two-thirds, Coffman said, adding that it is proof the area’s residents want to save the river and continue to live in the region responsibly, Coffman said.

Casey Jones of Sierra Vista said it is better to have local elected officials to turn to than to convince politicians out of the area something has to be done.

The farther people are from the problem, the harder it is to make them understand, he said:

It’s a lot more effective yelling at someone who is local than someone in Phoenix or D.C.”


On the ballot in the November general election:  Michael Bragg, Sierra Vista; Patricia Gerrodette, Sierra Vista; Jeff Harris, Bisbee; Lori Kovash, Sierra Vista; Inge McCord, Hereford;  Bob Strain, Sierra Vista; Carole Vaughn, Huachuca City; and Marvin Whetstone, Bisbee. Additionally, Moe Sinsley of Tombstone will be a write-in candidate. Individuals who want status as a write-in candidate have until 5 p.m. Sept. 23 to apply.

The top seven will be declared winners to the unpaid positions if the district is approved by the electorate.

Source: Cochise County Elections and Special Districts Department


Related Terms:

Premium Member
on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 13:53

While I agree with certain aspects of this proposed Upper San Pedro River
Water District I believe all water wells within the District’s boundary must
be included. Those on water company systems may eventually be taxed but those
on private wells will not. Gee, doesn’t that sound fair.

jack on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 13:10
Title: Again

The long term weather forecasters tell us that the Southwest will continue to
dry out which means the San Pedro will eventually cease to flow regardless of
whether or not there’s a water board. The obvious long term solution is to
cap population growth. This would be far more effective than white washing
the issue with establishing a water board that has no power to reverse the
water table deficit.

WW2 Marine Veteran's picture
WW2 Marine Veteran on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 10:26
Title: Scarce water

Water in the desert with an exploding population can become a scarce
commodity. I can understand the concern for protecting the expanded use of a
declining commodity. Something has to be done.

Sumtingwong on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 04:41
Title: Vote No

Water board the water board

Dumb Herb on Fri, 08/20/2010 - 01:40
Title: Snookered

That was a fine job of putting lipstick on a pig. Anyone that thinks they
won’t be taxed eventually is kidding themselves. Its not hard to understand
Castle and Cook, Ft. Huachuca and the City supporting a water district that
will help them pay for their growth with your money.

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