Prescott water pipeline requires mitigation plan

After a presentation by the engineer of the pipeline, I requested to address the mayor and council. I was allowed to state my name, then told by Mayor Steiger that this was not the time to dispute this issue.

I just wanted to share points omitted from the presentation. These points I feel would assist the council in its decision-making process, and more accurately reflect the probable costs to Prescott taxpayers.

Mayor Steiger refused me the opportunity to speak.

All members of the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee, including the City of Prescott, have asserted their dedication to preserving the base flows of the Verde River. To this end, the City of Prescott has publicly committed to a plan that would mitigate impacts to the river's base flow before the city pumps water from the Big Chino aquifer.

Where is this mitigation plan, and how much will it cost? The true cost of this project should be made known to the City of Prescott water ratepayers, taxpayers and council.

Other costs include the cost of litigation since the Salt River Project, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Verde Valley communities and irrigation districts, and environmental organizations likely will sue Prescott. How badly will the cost of legal defense impact city coffers? A mitigation plan may circumvent litigation, although there is certainly a question about that; and litigation certainly will end in at least a mitigation plan.

The council, acting in the trust of the citizens of Prescott, should enter this project with all of the appropriate information to make a decision. So much information is missing from this proposal – will the true costs be twice the council's projected amount, or more?

Perhaps the council should request a comparison of water costs from various alternatives, on a per-acre-foot basis. This comparison should include the cost of a mitigation plan, including the cost of replacement water for downstream users.

Further, the Water Advisory Committee, with the City of Prescott's participation, has commissioned hydrologic studies of the Verde watershed, part of which will help determine the potential impacts from pumping in the Big Chino area.

Gambling at least $9 million in public funds on a "pump test" to determine impacts is irresponsible. This is like sending a manned mission to Mars to find out if you can successfully send a manned mission to Mars – it's an all or nothing deal. NASA and other responsible public agencies conduct exploratory science missions to reduce risk; Prescott should do the same thing.

Tony Gioia is the vice mayor of Camp Verde and the co-chair of the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee.

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