Commentary by Bob Karp
I don't agree with Cochise County supervisor Peggy Judd on many issues, but I do support her attempt to bring various stakeholders together to discuss critical water issues facing the Willcox basin area. I believe her proposal was modest: hold a number of workshops/seminars over a period of three months in Sunsites and Willcox to inform, discuss and begin the process of building consensus for meeting the challenge of limited water resources. One of the hopes expressed by Judd regarding state legislation is "To make an impact on the state legislators, she said 200 to 300 people from the area would be needed to show support for approval of such legislation."
But here is where the supervisors showed their total lack of courage or understanding of their role in actually leading on such an important issue. Rather than enthusiastically getting behind the workshops, supervisors English and Borer had lots of reasons why the County should not lead.
Part of the reason was that Judd asked for approximately $22,000 to put on the workshops. English stated, “We can help initiate this, but it’s not a county function.” Borer added, “I have concerns the public will think we’re trying to ramrod this thing through. You can be a champion for it in the background, but you can’t control it.”
Real profiles in courage! Borer also wants more research into the water crisis. Really? Did he just get here? This has been debated, written about and researched for 20 some years.
I don't think the county needs to spend taxpayer funds on the workshops. I don't understand why they can't be put on without spending money. Please tell me it wasn't to hire consultants to help as the city of Sierra Vista did with the West End Project. We should stop paying consultants to take over functions that we have paid our local government to perform (such as simply arranging and coordinating a meeting.)
An update 12/18/19 since this post was written - The Southeast Arizona Economic Development Group (SAEDG) in Benson will receive the county funding for the seminars and manage the process.
Finally, where are our three state elected officials, Senator Gowan and Representatives Griffin and Nutt in supporting a legislative attempt at solving this problem? Apparently only willing to speak at ranching and agriculture groups who want no regulation of wells and water use, and not meeting with some of the people who have been adversely affected by over-pumping of ground water in the Willcox basin.
I don't have a solution or even a plan to meet the crisis. What I can say is that the status quo is not tenable. Local elected officials must lead, and yes it might not be comfortable or even politically smart, but we need to find a solution. During the campaign I hope I can find one that I can support and work for legislation if I'm elected to the Arizona State Senate.
For more information and reporting on the water issue, please visit Dry Wells in Willcox Basin post on this site.
Read more about this in the Herald/Review. (It's behind a paywall - sorry about that)
The editors of the Herald/Review weighed in with a December 13, 2019 editorial titled "Choosing winners and losers on water."
My letter to the editor in response:
I am disturbed by the laissez faire attitude that you seem to promote when it comes to the water crisis in Cochise county. Yes, it IS a crisis to many residents with their own wells.
I do agree that the county should not spend $22,000+ for meetings on the topic of possible solutions to water issues in the northeastern portion of Cochise county. Not for the reason stated in your editorial; rather I don’t see why meetings can’t be held at no cost to the taxpayers. However, what troubles me most is your closing paragraph which ends with “Choosing winners and losers on water is certain to breed conflict.” By continuing the county board of supervisors’ policy of doing nothing, they have certainly chosen the winners – industrial agricultural and dairy interests. Don’t fool yourself in thinking otherwise.
I am not proposing regulation without serious consideration, but it is incumbent on our elected officials to lead on this issue, even when it is “certain to breed conflict.”