Mon, Jan. 27

Editorial: Cottonwood's withdrawal from sub-WAC only widens Verde gap over water policy

The admonition from U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake over the need for a call to action for management of the Verde River could not come at a better time for Verde Valley leaders.

Simultaneous with this call to develop a water management strategy comes the news that Cottonwood will no longer be a member of the Middle Verde sub-Water Advisory Committee group. The sub-WAC was formed as a result of years of head-butting between Verde and Prescott area officials over water/river policy matters.

But at the same time, Verde Valley leaders have not done a very good job either at playing nice when it comes to water.

The real fallout began nearly a year ago when the Verde's leadership failed to support Cottonwood's move to have its Natural Resources director, Tom Whitmer, appointed to the Water Advisory Committee's Technical Advisory Committee, better known in the government world of alphabet soup as the WAC-TAC.

Other Verde WAC members supported the appointment of retired U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and regional manager Bill Meyer of Prescott to the position. Cottonwood officials wanted someone from the Verde named to the post. Whitmer was their obvious choice.

The anti-Whitmer sentiment comes from a perceived lack of objectivity when municipal employees serve on the committee. "It politicizes the process," said Clarkdale Mayor Doug Von Gausig.

Some might say it's having politicians on the committee that politicizes the process.

It's hard to argue with Whitmer's credentials. His depth of understanding about Arizona water policy is as good as you will find. But at the same time, there are a lot of folks who play the water-politics game in the Verde Valley who take exception to Cottonwood's posture that the city has hired a bona-fide expert and everyone else should shut up and listen to him. Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens wrote in an August My Turn to this newspaper: "If everyone would actually read the WAC's Mission Statement, Situational Analysis, Critical Planning Assumptions, and Key Objectives, they would understand that Tom Whitmer is simply the best choice for the TAC position."

Now, with Cottonwood pulling out of the Middle Verde WAC, this situation is not far removed from a child taking his toys and going home because everyone else is not playing nice.

The Verde Valley's collective leadership is scheduled to have one of its quarterly intergovernmental meetings in August. It might be a good idea to move this gathering up to July and see if this current strife can be ironed out.

There is a lot of truth to the old saying that "United we stand and divided we fall."

When it comes to water politics, right now the Verde Valley is anything but united.

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