FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Doug MacEachern or Shauna Evans
September 4, 2020 PHONE: 602.771. 8507 or 602.771.8079
Arizona Water Resources Director recommends approving a Colorado River water transfer to the Town of Queen Creek
Phoenix – The Arizona Department of Water Resources has recommended that the Secretary of the Interior approve a partial transfer of GSC Farm, LLC’s fourth priority Colorado River water entitlement to the Town of Queen Creek from farmland in the Cibola area of La Paz County.
In a letter dated September 4, 2020, ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke recommended approval of a transfer of 1,078.1 acre-feet per year.
Director Buschatzke based the decision to approve only a part of GSC’s requested 2,083.1 acre-feet per year on the need to retain water to serve future housing development on the property without negatively impacting other Colorado River users.
“In evaluating this application, as well as any future applications, the Department must weigh many competing factors including the beneficial use of the water after the transfer and any potential impacts on the western Arizona communities who rely on the Colorado River,” said Director Buschatzke.
“In this case a partial transfer allows the Town of Queen Creek to meet objectives in the 1980 Groundwater Management Act while avoiding negative impacts for established agricultural economies and growing urban areas in western Arizona.”
A copy of Director Buschatzke’s letter to the Secretary of the Interior can be found here.
In advance of the decision, ADWR organized a series of four public meetings in Phoenix, Bullhead City, Parker and Yuma. Further, a public comment period was provided that was subsequently extended 30 days and, then, an additional 45 days.
As part of the robust evaluation process the Department’s policy requires an evaluation of whether the proposed transfer will have “potential negative impacts to the water supplies of other Colorado River entitlement holders.” The Department concluded that there would be no such impacts.
Upon receiving the Director’s recommendation, the Secretary of the Interior will be responsible for making the final decision, including performing any National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) compliance actions.
Drawing on public comments received during the evaluation process, the Department has updated its substantive policy statement governing future transfers to explicitly rule out transfers out of state, and to include additional criteria regarding western Arizona communities. The updated policy statement can be found here.
The Director’s recommendation concludes a 13-month public process.
Arizona statute requires a non-federal Arizona entity such as GSC Farm, LLC seeking to transfer a Colorado River water entitlement to “cooperate, confer with and obtain the advice of the Director” of ADWR.
ADWR’s Substantive Policy Statement CR10 sets forth the criteria to evaluate a proposed transfer, including potential negative impacts to the water supplies of other Colorado River entitlement holders and other impacts that could occur from the transfer. Those potential impacts to on-river entitlement holders represented a substantial part of testimony provided during the public hearings.
ADWR’s Policy Statement provides that after evaluating a proposed transfer and public comments, “the Director will recommend to the Secretary the appropriate redistribution of mainstream Colorado River water supplies consistent with the policies and laws of the state.”
On August 1, 2019, GSC and Queen Creek submitted a request for consultation to ADWR for a proposed transfer of 2,087.86 acre-feet of fourth priority Colorado River water. Queen Creek is seeking the water to aid in providing resilience and stability for its long-term municipal water needs and to lessen its reliance on pumped groundwater, a primary goal of Arizona’s landmark 1980 Groundwater Management Act.
The 4th Priority entitlement is currently used to irrigate land owned by GSC within the Cibola Valley Irrigation and Drainage District (CVIDD) in La Paz County, south of Blythe, California.
For further information, contact Shauna Evans, Water Resources Public Information Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Doug MacEachern, Water Resources Communications Administrator at email@example.com