Ariz. House Passes Bill to Opt Out of Water Supply Rules

The Senate has already approved the bill in a similar form but still needs to make a final vote to approve changes in the House.

📅   Wed April 13, 2016 - West Edition
Ryan Van Velzer - Associated Press


The Senate has already approved the bill in a similar form but still needs to make a final vote to approve changes in the House.
The Senate has already approved the bill in a similar form but still needs to make a final vote to approve changes in the House.

PHOENIX (AP) The decision to unravel rules requiring a 100-year water supply for new developments in some rural areas could be left to Arizona's governor after the House signed off on the proposal.

The bill by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, would allow some cities in Cochise and Yuma counties to opt out of rules that require them to have enough water to last a century.

Gov. Doug Ducey praised Arizona's water management laws during his State of the State address in January.

Spokeswoman of the governor Annie Dockendorff said that ensuring the sustainability of Arizona's water supply is a high priority for the governor and he will consider that when the legislation hits his desk.

The House passed Senate Bill 1268 in a 33-25 vote. Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, was the lone Republican to vote against the measure.

The Senate has already approved the bill in a similar form but still needs to make a final vote to approve changes in the House.

The bill would then move to the governor's desk.

If approved, the legislation also could help a developer begin construction of nearly 7,000 homes in Sierra Vista despite a pending lawsuit.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management sued the Arizona Department of Water Resources for signing off on Castle & Cooke's water plan to build in Sierra Vista, in Cochise County. The federal agency claims the developer intends to use groundwater that is linked to a federally protected conservation area along the San Pedro River.

Maricopa County Superior Court ruled against the Department of Water Resources, but it has since appealed — leaving the water rights issue hanging.

Several Democrats opposed the measure during the vote, saying it poses an environmental threat to the Southwest's last free flowing river. Others said it could hurt home buyers who might run out of water before their mortgages are paid.

“I see the risk of picking off around the edges of what protects all homeowners for the long-term in Arizona,” said Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix.

Griffin has said her bill has nothing to do with the lawsuit. House Republicans said Sierra Vista has enough water to accommodate new development.

“There is water there and we have enough to make sure people can go back to work,” said House Speaker David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista.

A second bill by Griffin, Senate Bill 1400, would let water adequacy ordinances in Cochise and Yuma counties expire after two years and require a unanimous vote by the board of county supervisors to renew the ordinance for another five years.