State Senator Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) testified last week before members of a Congressional subcommittee that federal agencies are threatening access to critical supplies of water and undermining economic development in southeast Arizona.
“The proper management of our lands would produce jobs and a healthy environment,”Griffin declared. “Please do not allow any more federal acquisition of land. They have proven they can’t take care of what they have.
Griffin’s comments came at a rare field hearing conducted by members of the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water and Power, which came to Phoenix to hear testimony from Senator Griffin and other elected officials and business leaders concerned about the impact of federal policies on Arizona’s economy.
Providing a southern Arizona perspective, Griffin informed the Subcommittee that federal actions are threatening the Town of Tombstone’s water supply and complicating the City of Sierra Vista’s efforts to facilitate new development.
“Tombstone’s water infrastructure is located in the Coronado National Forest, which supports both adequate safe drinking water and fire suppression.Tombstone’s water rights date back 130 years prior to any designation of land by the Forest Service,”Griffin explained to the committee.
“Huge mudslides [following last year’s Monument Fire] forced boulders . . . to tumble down mountainsides, crushing Tombstone’s water lines and destroying reservoirs, shutting off Tombstone’s main water source.”
Griffin explained that the whole Town of Tombstone is at risk unless the Forest Service allows the Town to repair its water infrastructure. Inexplicably, however, the Forest Service has prohibited the Town from using motorized equipment to make necessary repairs, putting the Town at risk. The Forest Service has even prohibited the Town from using any mechanized equipment, to include wheel barrels, to make repairs.
“Should a fire occur, Tombstone structures could be history.Tombstone does not have the water to fight a major fire,”Griffindeclared. “The Forest Service’s motto is, ‘Caring for the land and serving people’. They have done neither in this case,” Griffin said.
Griffin also made the Subcommittee aware of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) efforts to halt development in Sierra Vista. In April of this year, the BLM sent a letter to the Department of Water Resources demanding that the State of Arizona halt the long-awaited Tribute development in Sierra Vista, claiming that the development’s water supply is “legally unavailable” because it is near the San Pedro National Conservation Area.
“[B]y claiming that sufficient water for the development is physically available, but legally the property of the federal government, this administration is signaling its determination to control the water not only in the San Pedro River but anywhere near it as well,” Griffin declared.
Griffin was joined at the hearing by representatives from Salt River Project, Grand Canyon Electric Co-op Association, the Gila River Indian Community, and the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, all of whom asked Subcommittee members to reform federal policies threateningArizona’s access to affordable water and power.
Of particular concern to the Subcommittee is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to require electric utilities, including rural co-ops such as the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, which runs the Apache Generating Station near Benson, to install prohibitively expensive emissions controls that could force these power plants to close. Such closures would cost Arizona hundreds of jobs, and lead to dramatically higher prices for electricity and water. For example, if the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) near Page were to close, the Central Arizona Project would have to purchase electricity from other, much more costly sources, leading to significantly higher water rates for Arizona residents in Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties.
Subcommittee members, including California Congressman Tom McClintock and Arizona Congressmen Paul Gosar and David Schweikert, thanked Senator Griffin for her testimony.
“What we’re doing here today is extremely important,” Congressman Schweikert said.
Senator Griffin pledged to continue her fight against federal encroachment on property rights and local control. “I applaud Congressmen Gosar and Schweikert for their focus on these critically-important issues. We need their leadership to push back against the growing power and intrusion of the federal government in Washington D.C.”