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Wakimoto lauds community on water fight

June 5, 2018 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — Mohave County District 5 Sup. Lois Wakimoto thanked the community Monday for not letting up in the effort to prevent Central Arizona Project from moving water outside the Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District.

“When we started this fight, I told you the power is with you,” Wakimoto told the nearly 50 people in attendance at a town hall meeting. “What you have been able to do is take CAP to task — in an agenda item for the CAP board meeting on Thursday, CAP staff recommended (CAP board of directors) not pursue this farm purchase any longer.”

Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, the arm of Central Arizona Water Conservation District representing the water district in the proposed purchase of seven Mohave Valley farm properties and their associated water rights, initially entered into a purchase agreement with Water Asset Management and Water Property Investor LP and affiliates in October, after the CAP board of directors approved the $34 million purchase price. CAP is proposing a voluntary fallowing program for the purpose of providing water to the Phoenix and Tucson areas.

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The agenda item comes before the CAP board of directors for a vote Thursday.

“It’s really great to see the progress that is being made and the community, and obviously we’ve still got to fight some more,” said attendee Janice Berkenheger. “I’ve only lived here two years, so seeing how much heart and strength is here and how everybody does work together to create these solutions and is passionate and stands strong.”

Wakimoto was quick to point out that although CAP may vote not to buy the Mohave Valley farms, the water district still is looking at a fallowing program within MVIDD.

“The bottom line is they want cheap water, they want our water, they want Colorado River water and they want a continuous supply of water,” Wakimoto said.

Wakimoto also pointed to a recent recommendation by Thomas Buschatzke, Arizona Department of Water Resources director, to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that the federal government reject the proposed lease of the town of Quartzsite’s allocation of Colorado River water to CAP.

Pete Ryn said the fight to prevent CAP from moving water outside the MVIDD boundaries reminds him of the fight between the residents of Owens Valley, Calif., and the City of Los Angeles over water rights.

“Look at the dust bowl that used to be Bishop Lake,” Ryn said. “But people have smartened up a bit, they know water is a vital resource. When I see what is happening here, the businesses coming in — we’re going to need that water sooner or later.”

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Wakimoto also updated residents on a roundabout at Highway 95 and Aztec Road, a proposed solution from Arizona Department of Transportation to improve safety in the intersection. The recommendation came as part of possible roadway improvements along a 12-mile segment of Highway 95 between Bullhead City and Fort Mohave, from Aviation Way to Teller Lane.

After speaking with ADOT officials, Wakimoto said she was told the state is re-evaluating to prioritize all the safety issues in the state, and that she doesn’t believe the roundabout at Aztec will happen.

“You guys did it,” Wakimoto said to the crowd. “Because you guys took a stand.”

Wakimoto also updated residents on provider changes within the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. The changes will affect most adults and children currently enrolled in the state-provided health insurance and Wakimoto encouraged all current residents enrolled in AHCCCS to contact their current physician to learn which of the two new integrated healthcare delivery providers — either Care1st Health Plan Arizona or Health Choice Arizona — will be accepted by their doctor.

Enrollment into the new integrated health care plans opened Monday and patients have until July 1 to choose their plan. Service with AHCCCS Complete Care plans begins Oct. 1.

Wakimoto encouraged residents to continue to make their voices heard at today’s MVIDD board of directors meeting and to attend the upcoming Arizona House Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources panel hearing on local water issues in Kingman. The meeting begins at 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 13 at the Mohave County Administration Building, 700 Beale St.

“One voice would not make the difference,” Wakimoto said. “Two voices would not make the difference. But you as a unit and we as a community — we beat back Goliath for a while.”