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CAP Board Supports Arizona Drought Plan Proposal

A Central Arizona Project canal in Scottsdale.
Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
file | staff
A Central Arizona Project canal in Scottsdale. The CAP brings water from the Colorado River to central Arizona.

On Thursday the board of the Central Arizona Project said it supports a drought plan released last week.

The CAP’s parent agency, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, has been one of the major negotiators of an internal Arizona deal to cut back on water due to drought conditions on the Colorado River. If that gets done, the state can sign the basin-wide Drought Contingency Plan.

Karen Cesare, one of the Directors of the CAWCD Board, made a motion to support a plan that came out last week with the backing of Gov. Doug Ducey, Native American tribes, and Valley cities. The Board unanimously approved the motion.

“It’s gone really quickly in the last couple weeks and a lot of really good progress has been made and I think everybody should be very proud of that,” Cesare said.

The Board will still have to vote on any revisions to the framework released on Nov 29, and Cesare's motion acknowledged there are still some sticky issues.

One is uncertainty over money for infrastructure to help Pinal County farmers transition to groundwater. The details of where the money will come from have not been finalized.

“Are there existing programs at USDA? What’s the time frame for proposals to get in? What’s the likelihood of success?” asked Sharon Megdal, a member of the CAWCD board. “Are we talking about going in with some new proposal to the Congress?”

It’s likely there will need to be a local match to whatever federal dollars come in. Paul Orme, an attorney who represents four irrigation districts with customers in Pinal and Maricopa Counties, wanted the CAWCD board and the state government to identify tax money for infrastructure in case federal money didn’t come through.

“It’s going to require participation by all for us to have the comfort level of, in one month from now, basically having to tell our Pinal County legislators, yes, this is something we should support,” he told the board.

Leslie Meyers, the Phoenix-area manager with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, said she’s confident funding can be identified.

“We’ve had discussions both within Reclamation using our own programs and with other federal agencies using theirs, and and I’m sure that we will be able to get there,” she said.

The Pinal County infrastructure program is likely to be a focus until January, as negotiators work to write something that can pass the Arizona Legislature.

This story has been updated.

Bret Jaspers was previously the managing editor for news at WSKG in upstate New York. Before that, he was a producer at WYPR in Baltimore and at Wisconsin Public Radio.His stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Here & Now, and also the BBC and Marketplace. Way back when, he started as an intern and fill-in producer at WNYC’s On the Media, and then helped out on The Brian Lehrer Show and Soundcheck.When he's not covering the news, he's probably running, reading, or eating. Jaspers is also a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union for professional stage actors.