Steiger muzzles Valley official <br>Gioia protests water pipeline

Camp Verde Vice Mayor Tony Gioia did not get his say in Prescott.

At their study session on Tuesday, members of Prescott City Council had few questions and voiced only support for the interim report from the engineering firm that is working on the design of the pipeline.

The council plans to consider the report again this week on its consent agenda, a list of non-controversial items that members routinely approve with a single vote.

The design of the pipeline, which has generated considerable controversy elsewhere, has had the full support of the Prescott City Council for months now. In August, the council agreed to spend about a half-million dollars to hire the firm, Black and Veatch Engineers, to do design.

One of the requirements of the contract was that Black and Veatch bring back a preliminary report to the council by fall, which would include the cost estimates for the pipeline project.

The council heard a brief report Tuesday from Steven Davis of Black and Veatch, who pointed out that the estimated cost of the nine-mile pipeline is $8,972,890.

After the report, the council appeared ready to move on to other topics. But Tony Gioia, vice mayor on the Camp Verde Town Council, asked if the council would allow comments.

Mayor Sam Steiger allowed Gioia to go to the microphone. But when Gioia gave his name and affiliation, Steiger interrupted him. "We're not going to get into this here," the mayor told Gioia. "This ad hoc stuff isn't going to get it. If you have a problem with this, we respect that, but this is not the place for it."

Verde Valley officials have opposed the idea of large-scale pumping from the Big Chino basin because they fear it could reduce the flow of the Verde River. The headwaters of the river lie near the Paulden pumping site.

After the meeting, Steiger said he believes that Verde Valley officials "want to do whatever they can to delay (the pipeline project). I don't disrespect that, but they're not going to do it in our backyard."

The prepared statement that Gioia planned to read to the council pointed out that all of the members of the Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee, which Prescott participates in, "have asserted their dedication to preserving the base flows of the Verde River."

Gioia had questions about what the city would do to mitigate the impacts of the pumping. "Where is this mitigation plan, and how much will it cost?" his statement asked.

He added that the city also should consider the cost of possible lawsuits over the pipeline. "How badly will the cost of legal defense impact city coffers?" he asked."

Steiger and other city officials have maintained that the best way to determine if the pumping will affect the flow of the Verde River is to begin pumping and continue to monitor the river.

But Gioia maintained that "gambling at least $9 million in public funds on a 'pump test' to determine impacts is irresponsible."

In Black and Veatch's report to the council, Davis said the pipeline would pump about 9,000 acre-feet of water per year. (An acre-foot totals 325,851 gallons of water).

The project would include the construction of a five-million-gallon reservoir at the Paulden well site to hold the water before it goes through the pipeline to the city's distribution center in Chino Valley.

The breakdown of project costs includes: $1.3 million for the reservoir; $5.3 million for the transmission line; $402,000 for a booster station; $37,000 for a chlorination system; $511,000 for mobilization, general requirements and taxes; and $817,000 for contingency.

Davis said his firm would have the 50-percent design done by about December, while the 95-percent design and the final bid-ready construction documents would be complete by March 2002.

Steiger pointed out that the city has $3.5 million to $4 million in its alternative water fund to help cover the cost of the pipeline. The city likely will finance the rest of the project through a revenue bond, he said, which city water customers would pay off in future years through a possible "modest increase" in water rates.

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