BULLHEAD CITY — Calling the recommendation by Arizona Department of Water Resources that the Secretary of the Interior deny the proposed lease of Quartzsite’s Colorado River water entitlement a “significant blow” to Quartzsite, Central Arizona Water Conservation District argued its case for approval in a letter sent Thursday to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

A copy of the letter from CAWCD to Zinke was made available during Tuesday’s Mohave County Water Authority board meeting.

The six-page letter from Theodore C. Cooke, CAWCD general manager, expressed concerns about the May 28 letter from ADWR Director Thomas Buschatzke recommending that Zinke deny any request for a lease and transfer of Quartzsite’s 1,070 acre-foot Colorado River water entitlement to CAWCD. 

Quartzsite “desperately needs the lease funds to improve its water supply system,” Cooke wrote. “Quartzsite is currently reliant on groundwater supplies to meet municipal water demand and in recent years has experienced outages at its water production facilities.”

In August, the Town of Quartzsite and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District submitted to ADWR a request for consultation for a proposed lease by Quartzsite of its fourth priority Colorado River water entitlement to CAWCD. The entitlement would be used to partially fulfill CAWCD’s statutory groundwater replenishment responsibilities.

Within the department’s nine-page evaluation of the proposed lease, Buschatzke noted the Town of Quartzsite holds a contract with the U.S. for permanent service of its fourth priority annual entitlement, subject to termination if no water is put to beneficial use within the Quartzsite service area. An amendment to the contract required preparation of a 15-year implementation plan to develop a water delivery system to put to use Quartzsite’s entitlement.

Buschatzke also noted the proposed lease with CAWCD does not establish beneficial use of Quartzsite’s 1,070 acre-feet of Colorado River water within Quartzsite’s contract service area by January 2020; therefore, “the proposed lease is inconsistent with the terms of the Quartzsite contract.”

In his letter, Cooke argues that ADWR failed to inform Quartzsite or CAWCD of any fundamental concerns with the proposed lease and transfer before or during the consultation process, noting, “At no time during those consultations did ADWR inform Quartzsite of any fundamental concerns with Quartzsite’s ability to lease its entitlement to other water users — Quartzsite has discussed its desire to lease its entitlement with ADWR on several occasions since at least 2013 and 2014.”

Cooke also wrote that the proposed lease and transfer is not materially distinguishable from the Kingman’s entitlement transfer to Mohave County Water Authority, and that the proposed lease and transfer would not negatively impact other Colorado River water users.

Cooke wrote that the water district would be seeking direction from its board of directors and conferring with Quartzsite regarding the next steps for the proposed lease and transfer, but for “purposes of ensuring the record before the Secretary is complete and accurate” it was important to address certain portions of the ADWR recommendation, as well as provide Zinke with copies of the documents submitted by Quartzsite and CAWCD to ADWR during the consultation process.

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