Thu, May 23

Judge sets July hearing date for SRP cases

July 1, Judge Edward Ballinger will conduct a status hearing in Phoenix for Salt River Project's latest filings against 12 Verde Valley water users.

According to a local attorney, Duane Wyles, an original organizer of the Verde Valley Water Users who are fighting to protect Verde Valley water rights, the judge will make a decision at that time on how to proceed.

In late April, SRP asked Maricopa County Superior Court for injunctive relief by filing five claims involving 12 property owners in the Camp Verde area. SRP is maintaining these dozen are using SRP-owned water.

SRP Manager of Water Rights Dave Roberts, explained at that time: "They are bigger users and folks who refused to stop irrigating on what we believe is SRP shareholder's water which in essence includes much of the water supply to the Phoenix area."

SRP is seeking interim relief from the court prior to the completion of the Gila River Adjudication (filed in the 1970s involving 50,000 plus defendants statewide).

Groups are already lining up on both sides of this issue.

Almost immediately, Phoenix threw its support behind SRP by filing a joinder with the court, and now the City of Tempe and the Roosevelt Water Conservation District have also filed joinders asking the court to protect southern Arizona water rights.

Several here and elsewhere have filed in protest, taking a pro-active position before the final outcome, siding with the Verde Valley.

"Mr. Mabery, lead attorney for the Verde Valley Water Users and our hydrologist, Phil Briggs, filed against the show-cause order last Monday in behalf of the Verde Valley Waters Users," said Treasurer John Reddell, also the Verde Ditch boss. "The filing protests moving the adjudication into the Verde Valley at this time. They are attempting to jump over all the obstacles. The San Pedro adjudication and study is not even completed yet. The Verde Ditch is also backing the Verde Water Users move."

In the much larger adjudication case, now 30 years old, the courts ordered studies first in San Pedro, the second in the Verde Valley with others to follow. The eventual conclusion of the larger adjudication case is expected to determine two things: the priority dates of claims and the amounts of water allocated under those claims.

At the time of this spring's filing, SRP officials agreed that this matter could be a test case. The petition to the court states that SRP and shareholders are senior to those of the five sets of water users addressed in the Order to Show Cause applications.

"Sedona, Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood plus the Gila Valley Irrigiation District, Franklin Irrigation District, Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, and Central Arizona Irrigation and Drainage District and the City of Casa Grande are also responding to the show cause," Wyles said. "They're taking the same position that we are. You can't do it piecemeal."

Those named in the SRP claim include:

1. Shields Ranch (Henry M. Shill, Don H. Shill) irrigation on 31 acres (Clear Creek).

2. Kovacovich Investment Ltd. Partnership, Wiertzema Family Trust, Jim and Linda Wyman, Myron Ray, First American Title Trust, using water on 133 acres (Middle Verde). Involves sales of parcels claiming water rights they do not have.

3. Linda S. and Paul R. Robinson and Chester Campbell, LLC, (Chester Newton Charter & Montesorri School) irrigating on 20 acres (near White Bridge).

4. NBJ Ranch, Ltd. Partnership, irrigating on 17 acres (Clear Creek).

5. Josephine Leslie and Verde River Ranch, LLC, using water on 68 acres (Clear Creek).