|“I know that, having lived here since 1951, there was a whole lot more water in the river then, when I learned to swim under the bridge. You can barely get your knees wet there now.”|
--Camp Verde Mayor Charlie German
COTTONWOOD -- The mayors of Cottonwood and Clarkdale are very competitive, say other Verde Valley politicians who asked not to be attributed, but one insists, "It spills over into all the politics we do as a region, and I hope that it just goes away."
That may be part of the disagreement over operations of the Middle Verde Valley Water Advisory Committee (MVWAC). But at least one of the players says she will not attend those meetings, which get under way this Wednesday in Cottonwood. The Cottonwood Council recently voted not to participate in the monthly sub-group meetings, but only work with the WAC committee as a whole, when it meets occasionally.
The continual back-and-forth bickering by opposite sides of the mountain is the rationale for splitting into two working sub-groups. The Middle Verde Group has met only two times, but the Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition has been in place since 2006.
What the Middle Verde group has agreed to, says Supervisor Chip Davis, is that there is already a lot of information out there and we don't need more. "But, what we should do is to implement policy to create change. What the Middle Verde folks have agreed on is: 'let's accomplish something; let's not just discuss issues, lets discuss how we move forward and get something done, because we have been talking about this for 12 to 14 years.'"
The Water Advisory Committee does not create policy on its own, but its recommendations return to each jurisdiction for discussion and adoption.
The supervisor will be out of town and will not able to attend Wednesday's meeting. John Rasmussen, the WAC coordinator, has distributed an agenda for the meeting, developed in concert with John Martinez of Sedona, the chair of the sub-group.
Martinez is disappointed Cottonwood will not be part of the discussions.
"I totally agree that it is too important a player not to participate in discussions. I think they would be missing a whole lot of discussions that pertain to the entire Verde Valley and they are an important player. I hope down the line they would reconsider that decision.
"Obviously, we have Camp Verde, Sedona, Jerome, Clarkdale and the tribe. They all have ideas about how to have a positive impact about the Verde River. We believe that as a smaller group, excluding the WAC, we cab try to resolve our own issues on this side of the mountain."
That agenda calls for re-stating the organizational conclusions of the MVWAC, to define work goals, objectives and to discuss the recent letter penned by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake to all WAC participants, which urges that the jurisdictions work to develop a long-range strategy for management of the Verde River. The senators' letter cites the USGS study prediction "that the Verde River annual baseflow will decrease up to another 8,600 acre feet over the next 100 years and that some local wells will drop another 100 feet with others going dry."
"This serves as a call to action," McCain and Flake stated.
"The Verde River is not going dry," insisted Tom Whitmer, Cottonwood's Natural Resources director, during a recent Cottonwood presentation of the USGS report. USGS representatives agreed with Whitmer.
But, the senators' letter continues, the current uses of the Verde River "are unsustainable."
"The feeling I get from Camp Verde, and I tried to tell Diane [Mayor Joens], is 'Why are people going to be interested in pulling this thing together without all of us speaking with one voice, the way we did with 260," Camp Verde Mayor Charlie German says.
"I just hope we can start laying things on the table and saying these are some of the water management things and water quality things. I know that, having lived here since 1951, there was a whole lot more water in the river then, when I learned to swim under the bridge. You can barely get your knees wet there now."
The Middle Verde Valley Water Advisory Sub-group meets from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon in the County Administration meeting room in Cottonwood.