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Fri, May 24

Upper Verde coalition gets consultant on board

PRESCOTT - The Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition conducted its first meeting Wednesday with its new consultant that will help the group set its priorities.

The coalition will pay Tempe-based Burgess & Niple as much as $200,000 over the coming year to help coordinate its meetings and plan for its projects to protect the watershed.

Company rep Ed Muccillo Jr., who helped organize the agenda, attended the meeting.

Before the coalition's next meeting in January - it is skipping the December meeting - Muccillo said B&N will complete a report about potential costs and timetables for the coalition's projects.

The coalition's technical advisory subcommittee will help B&N with its work. The subcommittee plans in December to begin meeting regularly on the second Wednesday of each month. It will post its meetings on the Town of Prescott Valley's website at www.pvaz.net. Click on "government" at the top of the page and then the coalition.

Coalition projects seek to help keep the Upper Verde River flowing and protect local groundwater supplies that feed the river.

Potential projects include water conser-vation, stream and groundwater monitoring, aquifer recharge projects, flood detention ponds, conservation easements, federal Habitat Conservation Plans, water districts and pursuit of alternative water supplies.

The coalition includes representatives from the four Prescott-area municipalities, the county and the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. Prescott Mayor Jack Wilson replaced ex-mayor Rowle Simmons on the coalition Wednesday.

Coalition members have agreed to add a goal of reaching "safe yield" in the Prescott Active Management Area (AMA) to the coalition mission. That means they want to make sure that Prescott-area residents meet a state-mandated goal to stop depleting their groundwater supplies by 2025.

The coalition's safe yield goal was the suggestion of Prescott resident Howard Mechanic, who told the coalition Wednesday that he is not sure the potential projects fit the mission.

"We need a plan to reach safe yield," Mechanic said.

He was part of a subcommittee under the Prescott AMA Groundwater Users Advisory Committee that wrote a report about safe yield issues. The committee decided that it should be up to another group to carry forward the subcommittee's recommendations.

The report suggested that the Prescott AMA municipalities should decide how much local groundwater is available without reducing supplies and split it up amongst themselves, Mechanic related. Then each municipality could decide how to reduce its groundwater pumping to meet the safe yield goal.

Mechanic estimated that 8-10,000 acre-feet of Prescott AMA groundwater is available to use each year, minus the AMA's 3,000 acre-foot current annual contribution to the Upper Verde River's flow.

Mechanic hopes that the coalition will create a safe yield subcommittee to work on the plan.

"I'm counting on this group to develop a plan to reach safe yield, because we don't have much time," Mechanic said. "Nobody else is going to do it."

He accepted Muccillo's idea to start by having the coalition's technical experts review the safe yield report. The technical experts consist of local government water resource managers.

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