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Wakimoto elected water authority chair

March 24, 2018 GMT

Strengthening the leverage she has of knowledge on water issues, Supervisor Lois Wakimoto has been elected the chair of Mohave County Water Authority.

Her new role is key as Mohave County opposes a proposal by the Central Arizona Project to obtain water rights from land owners in the county. CAP wants to pay $34 million for 5,500 acre feet of Colorado River water rights that belong to farmers in the Mohave Valley area.

Formed in 1995, the water authority’s primary task is to protect the water allocations of its members that include Lake Havasu and Bullhead cities, Kingman, Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District, Golden Shores Water Conservation District, Mohave County and Mohave Water Conservation District.

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“The purpose has always been to make sure our water stays here,” Wakimoto said. “As we move forward with development we will need additional resources. The water authority is here to protect that goal.”

Wakimoto stands opposed to CAP’s proposed sale.

“What I see is collaboration as a committee as we move forward and look at different issues that come before us,” Wakimoto said.

One of the looming issues that the strength in numbers as a water authority might provide is the fight against the concept of sovereign immunity, which is legal protection that protects some public entities — such as states and the federal government — from many types of lawsuits including those over water rights.

The fear, Wakimoto said, is CAP will attempt to declare “sovereign immunity” if a legal challenge is mounted against the Mohave Valley sale.

Sovereign immunity is a legal process similar to eminent domain.

At a highly anticipated public meeting on water issues in Yuma on Friday, Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke told state legislators and a packed audience — including Wakimoto — that sound management of Arizona’s Colorado River supplies requires preventing the operator of the Central Arizona Project from using sovereign immunity as a legal weapon against folks with Colorado River water entitlements.

“The State has concerns that (the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, operator of the CAP canal) will attempt to use the defense of sovereign immunity at the expense of water users in Arizona,” said Buschatzke.

Wakimoto was encouraged that Buschatzke is listening to Mohave County Water Authority and others opposed to land sales and water transfers.

“I spoke to the director before the meeting and he felt that was necessary, for the future of communities, to be able to express how they feel about water transfers and loss of water rights,” Wakimoto said.

If CAP is prevented from declaring sovereign immunity it would be a “great” victory, Wakimoto said.

“If we are not able to stop them through the legislature then this will give us another avenue to stop water transfers from Mohave County,” Wakimoto added.