Attended a water meeting last night in Casa
Grande. SRO attendance. Agriculture in AZ is a >$10.3 Billion industry and Pinal Co. is
>10% of the this industry. This economic engine is being threatened. This meeting was designed as informational, so no specific action was taken. At a time when Arizona needs jobs, and economic engines, this threat is
real and must be dealt with quickly.
Rule would steal land’s value
Posted: Friday, May 31, 2013 8:46 am
By DICK POWELL | 0 comments
I wish to thank managing editor Donovan Kramer and reporter Melissa St. Aude for informing the public in a very expedient manner about the planned extinguishment of grandfathered irrigation water rights in the Pinal Active Management Area (a water management area that encompasses most of the major agricultural areas of our county and many communities including Casa Grande, Coolidge, Eloy, Maricopa, Red Rock, Florence, parts of Queen Creek and Marana). This action could pose huge ramifications for all residents of the Pinal AMA. The most frightening aspect at present is most stakeholders in the AMA don’t realize what is about to happen beginning next year.
During a local Farm Bureau meeting in 2012, Tiffany Shedd, a farmer and attorney, related this was going to happen. It seemed incredible to many at the time, but subsequent research proved it was indeed true. The Farm Bureau and the city of Casa Grande are sponsoring an informal meeting June 19 at City Hall. The city has no formal position at this time but felt an obligation to help inform citizens of the AMA. Hopefully future meetings will take place in neighboring communities.
The meeting will include speakers for and against extinguishment. General questions and answers will be addressed by Joe Singleton, who is a highly recognized water authority, former manager of the Pinal AMA and current director of the Pinal Water Augmentation Authority. Hopefully we will have a representative from the Arizona Department of Water Resources present. I am a city councilman for the city of Casa Grande. Any concerns or opinions I express are mine alone and in no way represent the city of Casa Grande.
1) Originally, developers located land with water rights (usually farmland), enabling them to achieve the required 100-year assured water supply required in the AMAs prior to issuance of building permits.
2) The present developer-friendly plan extinguishes water rights for agriculture without compensation but not those for municipal or industrial uses. Water credits from farmers who convert their grandfathered rights from agriculture to municipal and industrial can be sold to developers much closer to Maricopa County. Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Apache Junction, Maricopa and north Florence are preferred locations.
3) Next year farmers must make a decision to continue farming or to convert their land use to M&I and receive full water credits, which then leaves the farm fallow, never more to be farmed and quite possibly never developed.
4) Those who farm will systemically see their land values diminish until their land is eventually of equal value to bare desert land. Again, there is no compensation for the grandfathered water rights taken. Would you want to be required to tear down your house before you sold your property? Taking the water is the same. Either scenario ultimately steals the value.
5) The question remains: “Do we develop where the water exists or take the water to where the developers desire?”
6) Superstition Vistas is an arid area the size of Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe. It could ultimately be home to more than 1 million people but has no water. It is the poster child for moving water where developers desire. Luckily, under current rules it will not really affect our AMA. Salt River Project has 130,000 acre-feet of water from the Gila River Indian Community to help development there.
7) If farming is extinguished and developers buy local credits for use in the northern part of Pinal County, our communities will lose the economic contributions from agriculture, related businesses, construction revenue and have a lot of dirt to look at.
8) The goal of the Pinal AMA states: “Where a predominately agricultural economy exists, (the goal) is to allow development of non-irrigation uses and to preserve agriculture for as long as feasible, consistent with the necessity to preserve water supplies for non-irrigation uses.”
What is the answer? The simple and logical answer is to eliminate the extinguishment of the grandfathered irrigation water rights. Let the market be the guide. As long as farming is feasible and profitable, the farmers will farm. When it becomes unprofitable, they will sell their land and water for other uses. Extinguishment is just a ploy to get farmers to convert their water credits sooner rather than later or lose their property values.
Dick Powell is a Casa Grande businessman and member of the City Council.