CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
For Immediate Release
Contact: Robin Silver, MD, Board Chair 602-246-4170
CENTER CHALLENGES PRESCOTT TO SAVE UPPER VERDE RIVER
PRESCOTT/PRESCOTT VALLEY COMMIT TO PURCHASE LAND PURELY
TO EXTRACT WATER FROM AQUIFER THAT SUPPLIES RIVER
Phoenix —The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) challenges the City of Prescott to protect the Verde River. CBD filed a notice of intent to sue dated December 8, 2004. Prescott voted December 7, 2004 to purchase the JWK Ranch for the purpose of transferring water from the Big Chino Basin into the Prescott area. The action inevitably results in less water for the Verde River, downstream residents and wildlife.
Hydrology reports calculate that more than 80% of the waters in the Upper Verde River come from the Big Chino aquifer. The purchase of 4,500 acres of the JWK Ranch comes with water rights of 8,717 acre-feet of groundwater and potential for another 4,500 acre-feet of retired irrigation water rights. An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.
The city plans to transport the water into the Prescott area where excessive deficit groundwater pumping is ongoing. Substantial groundwater pumping in the basin will reduce the base flows of the Verde River. Base flow is the flow in the stream during the driest time of the year.
“The city is going to pump vast quantities of water, taking it away from the river, without having a plan to address the impacts. This is like jumping from a plane without a parachute. Waiting until they ‘see’ the decrease in the river will be too late,” said Michelle Harrington, rivers program director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
A letter from the mayors of downstream communities in 2001 chided Prescott officials saying that the state statute which allows Prescott to get water from the Big Chino “does not give the right to adversely affect the flows or habitat of the [Verde] River, nor does it grant a right to damage any downstream water rights holder.”
In similar cases, the courts have sided with wildlife and determined that protections for rivers must be in place prior to taking an action. “The city needs to provide a conservation plan that is specific, measurable and verifiable prior to any pumping,” said Harrington.
“The battle for the Verde River has begun. The area is crucial to the Desert Nesting Bald Eagle and several native fish,” said Robin Silver, Center for Biological Diversity board chair.
Listed species of the Verde River include the Southwestern Desert Nesting Bald Eagle, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Razorback Sucker, Spikedace and Loach Minnow.
In addition to Prescott, the Center provided the notice to the Town of Prescott Valley, a partner in the JWK Ranch purchase, as well as to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service.