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Arizona lawmakers seek emergency action on Mohave County water rights

January 24, 2019

Lake Havasu City’s three area representatives to the Arizona Legislature are urging the state to take emergency action to defend Mohave County’s water rights with a new bill.

District 5 Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, this week introduced House Bill 2434, which will prohibit the transfer of Colorado River from western counties to other counties that do not border the Colorado River. Rep. Leo Biasiucci and Sen. Sonny Borrelli are supporting the bill. The bill has been listed as an emergency measure, “necessary to preserve the public peace, health or safety,” and will become effective immediately if passed by the state’s Legislature and signed into law by Doug Ducey.

According to Biasiucci, the bill comes as a response to contention between Mohave County and the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District. Mohave County officials have opposed the potential transfer of the county’s water to counties within Central Arizona, after a 2017 proposal by the Central Arizona Project to purchase agricultural land and obtain rights to Mohave County’s supply of Colorado River water.

“Representative Cobb, Senator Borrelli and I felt that we needed to do something to protect rural Arizona from losing our water rights,” Biasiucci said. “Our first duty as District 5 representatives is to protect our district and do what’s best for the people of Mohave and La Paz County. For us it was a no-brainer to introduce this bill and protect our water.”

According to Cobb, the bill would not severely impact Central Arizona counties, despite the Central Arizona Project’s reliance on Colorado River water.

“We need to maintain our water supply,” Cobb said. “Transferring our water is like picking winners and losers – the Central Arizona Project uses that water for development, but when we lose our water, development here stops. It’s picking Maricopa County as a winner, and our water district as a loser.”

According to Cobb, Maricopa County has other sources of water, including water transfer agreements with the Gila River Indian Reservation and the Colorado River Indian Tribes.

“I don’t think it will make a severe impact on their supply of water,” Cobb said.

Mohave County Supervisor and former state Sen. Ron Gould says the bill might face considerable opposition in the House, however.

“The devil’s in the details as far as legislation is concerned,” Gould said. “It sounds like a good idea, but I think it’ll be an uphill battle in the Legislature. There are 30 legislative districts in Arizona … when I was in the state Senate, there were only 8 districts that didn’t represent a portion of Maricopa County … the rest of those districts all have a piece of Maricopa. When you add Pima and Pinal Counties, there are probably only three legislative districts that don’t benefit from transferring Colorado River water to Central Arizona.”

The bill has not yet been scheduled to be heard by a legislative committee.

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