MVIDD board hears state lawmakers’ opposition to water transfer
MOHAVE VALLEY — “Are you with us in Mohave County or are you with (Central Arizona Project) board in Central Arizona and a hedge fund in New York City?” Arizona District 5 Rep. Regina Cobb asked Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District Board of Directors.
Nearly 145 people signed in at the Mohave Valley Fire Department to hear the MVIDD Board of Directors discuss a proposed revision of MVIDD Resolution 90-01, which would allow members of the MVIDD board the option of allowing movement of water outside the district’s boundaries for a fallowing program.
Resolution 90-01 currently prohibits the movement of contracted Colorado River water outside the MVIDD’s external boundaries.
The proposed change to the resolution would be a “singular exception” to allow temporary fallowing of acreage to save water, said Chip Sherrill, MVIDD chairman.
“As to who wants this resolution [change] — Central Arizona Project,” Sherrill said in an answer to a question from Doyle Wilson. “Central Arizona Water Conservation District is working on it; they are a working arm of CAP and that’s who has asked us to try to do this. As you know, they want to buy ground here and if they buy ground, they want to have some flexibility of setting up a fallowing program so it can go to their replenishing district. Our contention is that water will never leave permanently; we want to make sure that’s understood.”
Revising the resolution is a contingency in the proposed sale of Mohave Valley farms to CAP’s operator of the aqueduct system, Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District. CAGRD is pursuing the purchase of the properties and their associated water rights with the intent of implementing a rotational fallowing program to generate a water supply, CAP representatives told The Daily News in November.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, MVIDD board members heard from nearly 20 local farmers, landowners, real estate agents, residents and county elected officials opposing both the proposed change to the resolution and the transfer of water to CAP.
Rep. Cobb told the board members she also was speaking for Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli.
“As you know, the Board of Supervisors oppose all such transfers and on behalf of my constituents I must advise you that we will oppose these transfers in all forums, by all means and for as long as it takes,” said Cobb in her remarks to the board.
Representatives of Realtor associations from Lake Havasu City, Kingman and Golden Valley read letters from their members in opposition and dropped off signed copies with hundreds of signatures.
“At some point this board passed and later amended a resolution that purposely and specifically prohibited the water leave this district. What has changed between then and now,” asked attendee Whitney Crow.
“The farmers and the district are looking at different ways of facilitating a fallowing program,” Sherrill said. “As Patrick (Cunningham) has stated, there may be a different option for that; we will look at that. But farmers economically have just about gone broke in this valley — it’s a way to help the farms and the farmers who have been going through a hard time for a long time.”
Cunningham, general counsel for HighGround Public Affairs representing Mohave County, made clear the county’s objection is not to the sale or transfer of the land but to the permanent transfer of the water. He asked the board members to consider asking CAP to contract with farmers to do a fallowing program and accept the water as excess water.
“They (CAP) can use that because they have a contract right to do that right now in their repayment contract with the Department of the Interior,” Cunningham said. “But with excess water you do not transfer title to the water — you do not transfer the point of diversion, the point of use.”
Sherrill also told those in attendance that the board has a lot of work to do before a fallowing program would be implemented.
“We’re not doing (the fallowing program) right now, we’re getting public input,” Sherrill said. “We’re talking with everybody in the community and obviously we have lots of opposition to it and we will take that into consideration, the way we always have.”