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Sun, Aug. 25

Verde group plans big push for study money

Verde River Basin Partnership leaders are mounting a grassroots campaign to push for federal study money.

The partnership's full membership unanimously approved the grassroots campaign plan Aug. 10, then the partnership's coordinating committee started working with its communications committee on details Aug. 17.

The partnership's communications committee has expanded from two to 18 members to take on the campaign task. New volunteers include former state senator Tom O'Halleran and former Camp Verde mayor Tony Gioia.

The group wants to educate the public about the partnership's values and mandates, and urge people to contact their congressional delegation for monetary support, explained Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig, a partnership coordinating committee member.

The partnership is pushing for federal money in the 2011 budget year that begins Oct. 1, 2010.

That would be nearly five years after former President George W. Bush signed the law that created the partnership.

The law, originally pushed by Sen. John McCain, requires the partnership to conduct studies of the Verde Watershed and offer options on how to manage Verde water resources.

Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Dewey-Humboldt and Yavapai County elected bodies have refused to join the partnership.

Several Prescott-area leaders said they should have extra representation because of their greater county population, although the watershed also includes part of Maricopa County with a much bigger population base.

Other Prescott-area leaders have argued that the partnership should be under the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee, although the watershed includes parts of four counties.

And some Prescott-area leaders have stated that local elected leaders should have more control of the partnership, although the federal law specifically requires members to include federal, state and local agencies, as well as economic, environmental and community water interests.

McCain has stated he is happy with the partnership's membership format.

However, congressional leaders have been reluctant to push for federal study money because Prescott-area municipalities refuse to join the partnership.

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