80 attend town hall on water transfer
MOHAVE VALLEY — Nearly 80 residents filled the Mohave Valley Fire Department training room Tuesday night to discuss Central Arizona Project’s attempt to purchase seven farms with the intent to transfer Colorado River water for use in Tucson and Phoenix.
The meeting was meant to keep people educated and aware of the issue, Wakimoto said.
“I’m the only non-tribal farmer north of Boundary Cone,” said Robert Arnold. “Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District hasn’t really told us what this is about, but I understand what they’re doing. It’s a bunch of (expletive) for the farmers themselves to not know what is happening here is a failure of the (Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District) board.”
In September, Central Arizona Project’s governing board, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, approved the $34 million purchase of seven Mohave Valley farms that come with about 13,900 total acre-feet of water rights, Wakimoto said. CAP wants to transfer 5,538 acre-feet of Colorado River water outside the MVIDD each year through a rotational fallowing program.
An acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover 1 acre with a foot of water, about 326,000 gallons. One acre-foot is roughly enough water to support two households for one year.
MVIDD has in place a resolution passed in 1989 and revised in 2008 that prohibits the transfer of contracted water outside of the MVIDD boundaries. But that could be changed if the board votes to do so.
MVIDD board members must be farmers who own land in the district, Wakimoto said. CAPGRD wants a seat on the board.
MVIDD registered voters must own and farm a minimum of 20 acres; those registered voters elect MVIDD board members. There are fewer than 25 registered voters in the MVIDD, which has five board members.
A representative of WPI (Water Purchase Investors), which is selling the land to CAPGRD, sits on the MVIDD board, Wakimoto said. He’s abstaining from the issue and will not cast a vote.
The sale of the seven properties is contingent on modification of that resolution, CAP officials said.
“My feeling is that if the entity that bought the seven parcels of land is in escrow for $34 million to sell 13,000 acre feet of water — well businessmen from New York are not going to buy that land if they can’t get that water for this transfer,” said Brad Hoover, who served as an MVIDD board member until 2010. “I’m afraid they know something that we don’t know. My fear would be we don’t have a commitment from MVIDD. If the MVIDD board has said that they’ll rely on the existing resolution, they should just re-ratify it.”
Wakimoto encouraged those in attendance to keep writing letters to elected officials, stating their opposition to the water transfer. The county has posted contact information for elected officials and a letter template available on its website at www.mohavecounty.us.
“The impact that we have made seems to have caused CAP to pause for a moment,” Wakimoto said. “What’s been really good about this is that it’s the power of the people — the voice of the people — and their concern about our life’s blood — our water and our community.”
Wakimoto said she attended a meeting Tuesday morning where she heard that CAP has asked the seller of the seven Mohave Valley farms — Water Property Investors, LLC, a private equity fund based in New York — to extend the due diligence period during escrow.
“I believe that the concern the community has about this issue and that people have stepped up and written letters and done this type of thing has made a difference,” Wakimoto said.
The proposed farmland purchase has met with opposition from Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City as well as from county supervisors; all recently have passed resolutions objecting to the acquisition of water rights by CAP and any movement of water outside the district.
County Assessor Jeanne Kentch also spoke at the town hall, explaining to the residents that the county would also bear the loss of property taxes on the properties should the sale between WPI and CAP go through.
“They’re exempt,” Kentch said. “Any government-owned property is exempt from property taxes. Everything they end up buying we will not be able to collect property taxes on.”
James Barber, a Mohave Valley resident and member of the school board, said he has stayed involved since he first heard about the issue.
“I already know what I need to do — I need to contact my three federal legislators,” Barber said. “They can change the law and that’s what they need to do, they need to change the law here.”