Tue, April 07

Water group restates opposition to groundwater on golf courses

The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee reiterated its stance Wednesday against using any groundwater on golf courses.

The position is one of the few that the committee and county Board of Supervisors disagree on. The committee is an advisory group to the supervisors, and most of its members are elected officials from municipalities in the county.

While the county has a relatively strict ordinance that requires environmentally friendly golf courses and the weaning of courses from groundwater to effluent, the supervisors have left the window for conversion to effluent vague in the past.

Developers have consistently preferred to build golf courses at the start of construction, as a boost for sales and as an assurance to buyers. But no effluent is available at that time.

Developers of the Rancho Cielo subdivision plan to start building the golf course at the start of that project near Paulden.

"That's what everyone does," Rancho Cielo developer Joe Ayres said Thursday. "Then you're not having doubt in the mind of lot buyers that there will be a golf course."

Art Coates, who represents Gheral Brownlow's supervisor district one on the water committee, said he doesn't like that concept.

"I have a very real problem with that," Coates said Wednesday. "This whole project in my opinion is very poorly planned."

The Rancho Cielo golf course has been particularly controversial because it is located near the headwaters of the Verde River. Verde Valley officials worry that the development's use of groundwater will reduce the flow of the river.

"I still do not understand why every development has to have a golf course," Sedona Mayor Anita MacFarlane said. "There must be other things people can do."

When the Rancho Cielo developers come back before the planning commission and supervisors seeking a final plat for phase one, water committee Coordinator John Munderloh will send them another letter detailing the committee's Wednesday comments about the development's water use. The application for the final plat is due by June 2003.

The letter will update the progress of Verde Valley communities' efforts to produce ordinances banning the use of groundwater on golf courses. The supervisors suggested the municipalities should do that first if they want the county to do it.

Camp Verde has approved an ordinance banning groundwater on golf courses, and Clarkdale is considering it. Jerome and Sedona have no room for golf courses, their officials said. Prescott and Prescott Valley also ban groundwater on golf courses.

Chino Valley has no wastewater system to offer effluent (recycled wastewater) as an option to groundwater, but it's planning to build one within a year. Chino recently approved a subdivision and golf course on the Del Rio Ranch, and is letting that developer use groundwater on the golf course until the development produces enough effluent.

The new water committee letter also will offer mitigation ideas to reduce the impacts of Rancho Cielo's water use.

The mitigation proposal will include a plan to monitor water levels in wells and the nearby river.

If the monitoring proves the development is negatively impacting the river, the developer should be required to mitigate the effects, the committee and its technical advisors agree.

The mitigation could include a habitat conservation plan, purchase and retirement of agricultural water rights, or purchase of replacement water for downstream water rights holders.

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