CASA GRANDE — State Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, expects water to be a major topic for legislators as they reconvene next month in the Capitol.
In a recent interview, Shope said water will be a time-sensitive issue since the state only has until the end of January to come up with a solution for a pending shortage.
The federal government has threatened to impose restrictions on how Colorado River water is allocated if Southwestern states don’t come up with a plan by Jan. 31.
Shope said negotiations are ongoing and indicated the state will need to prepare for the prospect of having to pump more groundwater in the future.
“There is no doubt that we are in the midst of an everlasting drought,” said Shope, adding he will make sure farmers in Pinal County won’t be forgotten in the water debate.
The long-term drought plans have envisioned Pinal County farmers getting and using less Colorado River in the future. Because of this, Gov. Doug Ducey has previously said it makes sense to allow Pinal farmers more access to groundwater.
Shope said he’s working with Ducey on fixing the “woefully inadequate” salaries for prison guards in Arizona. Shope, whose district includes multiple prisons, said there finally seems to be some movement on granting a significant pay raise.
A one-time expense Shope thinks the state can make is an investment in widening Interstate 10 from Casa Grande to Phoenix. He said he’s recently met with federal officials on possibly pledging state dollars to widen the freeway and getting a match from Washington.
“This is a major issue for me,” Shope said about I-10.
The 33-year-old lawmaker was re-elected to a fourth term in office this year. He said he’s considering a run for the Arizona Senate in 2020, as he won’t be able to run for a fifth consecutive term in the House under state law.
State Sen. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande, said he plans to run for his old House seat in District 8 and not run against Shope to keep his Senate seat.
“I am supporting him in that effort,” said Pratt, who was re-elected to a second term in the Arizona Senate this year.
More of Shope’s interview can be heard on the PinalCentral podcast.