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Mohave County Supervisors weigh legal action on water

November 1, 2018

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors are set to discuss potential litigation against the Mohave Valley Irrigation Drainage District after the district approved a resolution allowing the transfer of water outside the district. The resolution, signed in July, replaced a 29-year-old resolution that prohibited the transfer of water outside of the district, which encompasses the greater Bullhead City area.

The new resolution allows the MVIDD to create a rotational land fallowing program which would allow the district to transfer water to communities outside the district.

County supervisors will consider sending the district a letter of intended action which would “address the improper use of public monies to defend individual board members,” the agenda item states. The letter also will highlight issues the MVIDD board members face including duty of loyalty, fiduciary duty and conflict issues.

The letter proposes a resolution asking the district to rescind the resolution or amend it to store water saved from fallowing in Lake Mead and continue to use Colorado River water only in river communities.

Mohave County Manager Mike Hendrix said the county does not oppose the fallowing program as it would benefit farmers and conserve water. They also don’t oppose farmers receiving compensation for fallowing their lands when the water stays behind the dam.

Hendrix said storing that water in Lake Mead and potentially creating a surplus would benefit Colorado River communities. What the county is speaking out against is the idea that the district can transfer water to communities in central Arizona, he said.

The MVIDD has a contract with the U.S. Department of the Interior to use their allocation of Colorado River water within their district, Hendrix said. The county believes the resolution the MVIDD passed was not in accordance with that contract.

Hendrix said the allocations of river water given to river communities for growth and farming are finite and are more in jeopardy in recent years as Arizona and surrounding states experience drought conditions and as water levels drop in Lake Mead.

“Water is our future, it’s the key to growth and if we allow the water that was slated to our communities to go to central Arizona we’ll no longer have it and we won’t be able to grow,” he said. “So basically we’d be giving away our future, or allowing our future to be given away.”

The letter will include public records requests for financial information related to the MVIDD’s expenditures in 2018 for lawyers and law firms made to defend the district and individual members, a public records request for “records, communications, agreements, fee agreements, engagement letters and any documents related to possible litigation of any type,” the agenda item says.

The letter will also give the MVIDD a Nov. 30 deadline to accept the county’s proposed resolution. Otherwise the county will send a separate letter to the Attorney General.

Supervisors will also consider drafting an attorney-client privilege legal memo which will provide additional research to identify all potential arguments the county can use in the letter to the Attorney General, if the letter is necessary.

Supervisors can have a discussion in executive session but can only vote whether to take any action against the MVIDD in a public meeting.