By Ted Cooke, Central Arizona Project General Manager
For as long as anyone can remember Arizona’s water issues have been tackled in a non-political manner, with sober-minded participants debating genuine policy disagreements until a consensus was reached to the benefit of Arizona.
With persistent drought conditions in the Western United States threatening our state’s Colorado River water entitlement, once again Arizona’s water leaders are called to this proven formula of fact-based analysis and thorough deliberation among the many vested interests engaged in water policy in Arizona. While it is crucial that the state address this situation in earnest, we fortunately have some time and capacity to develop creative solutions that make sense for everyone.
CAP leadership is ready to meet this most recent test of our precious natural resource. As an organization founded nearly 50 years ago, we’ve seen our share of challenges, controversies and compromises. We have worked collaboratively and successfully with the last 10 governors to develop and implement water policy in Arizona that is the envy of other Western states. With this backdrop, we look forward to a cooperative partnership with Governor Ducey and other Arizona stakeholders to find answers to the problems facing us today.
CAP has a long and positive working relationship with the Arizona Department of Water Resources. This relationship is built on technical expertise and mutual respect for the important role each public entity plays in Arizona water management. CAP supports ADWR and its mission as the leader for Arizona on water policy.
CAP is unique in that it is the entity with contracting authority with the United States for delivery of the CAP water supply, which is the largest portion of Arizona’s Colorado River allocation. This authority — and CAP’s repayment and operating agreements with the federal government —are essential to the successful implementation of Arizona’s water policies.
Another aspect of CAP’s unique nature is its publicly elected Board of Directors. Fifteen people are chosen by voters in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties to responsibly carry out CAP’s statutory and contractual obligations. CAP Board members pride themselves on being accessible, open-minded and willing to listen to differing viewpoints. Just last month, they conducted a half-day meeting that was open to the public to hear concerns and insights from cities, tribal members, agriculture representatives and other interested parties. Governor Ducey and leadership from ADWR also were invited to attend. Opinions and grievances were aired, questions were asked and a variety of topics relating to water management were discussed. One of the clear messages that came from Board members and CAP staff at this public meeting was this: when genuine differences of opinion arise as to CAP’s authority or responsibilities under state or federal law, CAP is committed to working with all parties in an open process to address concerns, answer questions and eliminate confusion or uncertainty.
In contrast, the Governor’s current, hurried water policy process bears little resemblance to the proven formula for development of sound, nonpartisan water law in Arizona. Much of the focus of these invitation-only gatherings appears intent on merely criticizing (and silencing) CAP, not on resolving honest differences of opinion and developing a consensus solution to the critical issues facing us today. Regrettably, this is not in the best interest of Arizona.
To meet the challenge of historic drought conditions in our state, Arizona need only to look to the example of those leaders who have gone before us. The Golden Rule of Arizona governance is this: we do not politicize water policy. With this in mind, CAP asks Governor Ducey to open up the process and lead a genuine effort of principled cooperation that has been the hallmark of Arizona gubernatorial leadership for more than five decades.