Talk of the Town: The voodoo they do so well

It's staggering, isn’t it? More than 10,000 new homes proposed at Deep Well Ranch and thousands more cumulatively at other new developments such as AZ Eco and Walden Ranch. Not to mention the approximately 1,400 new homes approved at the Granite Dells Estates. All total, in the not so distant future we could see more than 15,000 new homes being built in Prescott, closing in on doubling the current population. And then throw in that AZ Eco Development is proposing housing along our prized Peavine Trail in The Dells.

Despite the City of Prescott’s voodoo game of continuing to issue water credits to new developments and using questionable effluent credits in their rationale process, the reality is: 1) the Little Chino aquifer (source of the City’s production wells) is being overdrafted to the tune of approximately 18,000 acre feet per year or almost 5.9 billion gallons per year, 2) every new development equates to even more of an overdraft impact and exacerbates the goal of achieving Safe Yield, and 3) it potentially accelerates the need for the very expensive Big Chino Water Project (the city’s proposed pipeline project for alternative groundwater). And some may argue too that the City is irresponsibly issuing water credits to new developments before the water study on the proposed pipeline project is complete, i.e., before the impacts to the Upper Verde River are fully evaluated. The Verde River is the last perennial river left in our state (development drying our other rivers) and the Upper Verde is a critical habitat to a diverse number of species and an invaluable recreational area.

The city, in past years, adopted a policy that new growth would pay for growth, i.e., new growth would pay for 80 percent of the city’s share of the pipeline project (Prescott Valley is paying 46 percent of the total as their share). However, since then the Arizona Legislature enacted a new state impact fee law that may thwart the city from fully implementing their 80 percent promise.

The pipeline, if built, could cost half a billion dollars before all is said and done. If it costs $500 million, then using the city’s 54 percent share and spreading that cost over 23,000 existing customers plus 15,000 new homes results in an impact fee to you, for your household, of more than $7,000! Is it fair to spread the pipeline cost equally among all customers, existing and new? Would we not need the pipeline if it weren’t for the new developments being approved?

Especially given the city’s earlier commitment to new growth paying for growth, the city should start FIGHTING FOR US, as best they can within the confines of the new impact fee law, in creating a fair water rate structure before approving any more new developments. The city should not be subsidizing millionaire developers at the expense of existing residents! And the city must FIGHT to save the beauty of our Peavine Trail. Anything less would be a betrayal.

Joe Zarnoch is retired, lives in Prescott, and is interested in local community issues.