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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : latest news : regional July 10, 2014

6/29/2013 11:28:00 AM
Upper Verde Coalition cuts dues, considers expanding

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT -- The Upper Verde River Watershed Protection Coalition members representing the Prescott and Prescott Valley councils agreed Wednesday to cut their coalition dues by 20 percent for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.

The cities already cut their Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee dues by half, prompting the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors to cut their dues for the countywide committee as well as the Upper Verde Coalition.

The Upper Verde Coalition currently has five members but Chino Valley hasn't been paying its dues, so it doesn't get to vote. The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe is a voting member but President Ernie Jones did not attend Wednesday's meeting. Dewey-Humboldt quit the group.

County Supervisor Chip Davis said at the supervisors' meeting June 17 that it was only fair to cut the Upper Verde dues alongside the Water Advisory Committee dues. He said the Prescott-area communities wouldn't let Middle Verde communities join the Upper Verde Coalition.

The Upper Verde Coalition briefly discussed the idea of adding members Wednesday, but they talked about adding only non-voting members and they didn't mention Middle Verde communities.

New Upper Verde Coalition member Craig Brown, a county supervisor from Williamson Valley, said he'd like to see Upper Verde citizens groups become non-voting members. He mentioned the Paulden Area Community Organization, local water districts, and the Citizens Water Advocacy Group, which he said has a "very positive influence on water conservation."

John Munderloh, Prescott Valley's water resources manager, suggested the coalition have its technical advisers and attorneys review the current intergovernmental agreement before the coalition agrees to add members. He said the current IGA still lists the Salt River Project and Dewey-Humboldt as members. SRP never became a member.

The county supervisors voted June 17 to contribute $72,155 to the Water Advisory Committee during the next fiscal year instead of their full dues of $89,330. They cut the dues in half but added back $27,500 for Verde Valley (Middle Verde) water studies to match the $27,500 they are contributing to the Upper Verde group.

With the 20 percent cut, Prescott will contribute $52,000 to the Upper Verde Coalition, PV will contribute $44,000 and the tribe will chip in $400.

Upper Verde Coalition staff told members Wednesday that they wouldn't be able to conduct the coalition's large-scale rainwater harvesting pilot program until they start paying full dues again. They've been cutting their dues by 20 percent since 2011, citing budget concerns.

The pilot project probably will initially cost about $130,000-$150,000, staff said, plus another $10,000-$25,000 annually for monitoring. The coalition has set aside $100,000.

If successful, the pilot project could offer a new way to capture rain that otherwise would evaporate, thereby supplementing dwindling local groundwater supplies.

The coalition members informally agreed Wednesday to ask their full councils and boards to renew a multi-year $75,000 annual contract with Burgess & Niple. But they plan to change it from a program manager to project manager role, so B&N works on an on-call basis instead of acting as coalition staff.

The coalition hasn't met with a quorum since October, and the Burgess & Niple contract is set to expire July 1, so the coalition members agreed to temporarily extend the contract until their respective councils and boards vote on it.

Brown said he didn't want to vote Wednesday with the coalition on extending the contract, because he just got a copy of it during the meeting.

The coalition's next meeting is Sept. 25.

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