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Fri, Sept. 20

Verde River Basin Partnership

PRESCOTT -- Yavapai County Supervisor Carol Springer strongly urged the Verde River Basin Partnership members Friday to start over on their work so Prescott-area municipalities will consider joining them.

All three county supervisors attended the partnership meeting Friday at Prescott College, and most of the two-hour meeting focused on how to get the four Prescott-area municipalities to join.

Sen. John McCain's Yavapai Ranch land swap legislation called for creation of the partnership to conduct studies about the watershed. But the composition of the partnership's voting oversight group has been a stickler for the municipalities of Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt.

In a draft letter to those councils, Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig said there must be an unstated reason for the Prescott-area communities' reluctance to join the partnership: They fear that the partnership's studies might hurt them in a potential future lawsuit over the use of Big Chino

Sub-basin groundwater that feeds the Verde River. The Center for Biological Diversity already has threatened such action.

However, the partnership's work can help the Prescott communities prevent litigation by providing information they can use to create a mitigation plan so they don't reduce the river's flow, Von Gausig argued.

The partnership members offered suggested changes to the letter which Von Gausig will

incorporate before sending it off.

Springer, who lives in Prescott, didn't think much of the letter and she questioned whether the group could even officially call itself the partnership.

"To a great extent, you've missed the boat completely about what's going on," Springer said. "The message you think you've been sending is not the message being received."

The message that the Prescott-area municipalities are receiving is that the group just needs them to validate what it has already done. Participants made too many decisions before the partnership even existed, she said.

But it was the Prescott-area communities' decision not to attend any partnership meetings since March, Von Gausig countered.

"We did everything we could do but lay down in the street," he said.

He then pointed to Chino Valley Mayor Karen Fann's past comments that it would help if the partnership leaves out any discussion or studies about the Big Chino.

"When you say something like that, it's hard to take you seriously," Von Gausig said.

Springer urged the partnership to "start over," citing McCain's legislation to suggest that groups that have expertise and responsibilities with water should take the lead.

Von Gausig asked those at the partnership meeting if any thought they had no expertise or responsibilities in water issues, and no one raised his or her hand.

He also asked them to raise their hands if they didn't feel they had enough voice in the process, and no one raised his or her hand.

Supervisor Chip Davis, who represents the Verde Valley, said "It's a bit ironic when critics on the sidelines" attack people in the trenches.

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