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Colorado River shortage declaration would mean less water for Pinal farmers
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CASA GRANDE — A long-feared Colorado River water reduction for Pinal County farmers is close to becoming a reality.

With continuing drought along the Colorado River Basin, the Central Arizona Project and Arizona Department of Arizona Water Resources issued a joint statement Friday morning on the impact of anticipated shortages.

A shortage declaration on the Colorado River would result in a major cut to Arizona’s share of that water.

“These reductions are painful, but we are prepared,” the statement reads. “As we face the prospect of a hotter and drier future, we are confident that with our long history of successful collaboration among our diverse stakeholders — agriculture, tribes, cities, environment and industry, we will continue to find innovative and effective solutions to sustain Arizona’s Colorado River supply.”

In 2019, the seven states in the basin, as well as Mexico, developed a Drought Contingency Plan to last until 2026. The plan was designed to mitigate impacts of water reductions and help central Arizona agriculture, the sector most likely to be impacted by shortages.

Unless something changes, Arizona will be expected to reduce its use of Colorado River water by 512,000 acre-feet in 2022 as the plans goes from “Tier Zero” to “Tier I” status. Water supplies for cities and tribes are not expected to be affected.

According to Pinal County Supervisors Chairman Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, farmers in the county are very aware of potential changes to CAP water allocations, and irrigation districts have begun drilling more wells for groundwater. According to Miller, it isn’t yet clear how regional farmers will ultimately adapt.

“Will there be less crops grown? Probably,” Miller said. “Whatever happens in the future, there’s constantly new technology or improvements in drought resistant crops. We have very efficient farmers here in Arizona.”

Local farmer Nancy Caywood, who owns Caywood Farms in Casa Grande, painted a picture that was more grave.

“All farmers in the area should be very concerned about their water allotment being reduced,” Caywood said. “You have to pick and choose your crops carefully when there’s no runoff. I don’t think people coming in realize how important agriculture is to this area, and to our livelihood.”

Currently, Caywood says her farm isn’t receiving any new water from the San Carlos Irrigation District. They are currently growing alfalfa and then offsetting losses with a corn crop on another plot in Coolidge.

“What is going to happen to farms if they end up going bankrupt?”Caywood said. “It’s a bad situation all over. I’m not seeing selling our land, turning acres of beautiful farmland into solar energy or homes, as a good solution either.”

In addition to the financial cost of drilling new wells, Miller said that farmers will need to figure out the economic viability of growing new or different crops, should that become the best option.

Pinal County ranks first in the state in cotton, barley and livestock production. A 2019 study from the University of Arizona calculated that agriculture within Pinal County generates $2.3 billion. Overall, agriculture in Arizona is a $23 billion industry.

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Zombie subdivision due for a makeover as Casa Vista comes back to life
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CASA GRANDE — After years of inactivity, an empty “zombie” subdivision will be getting a makeover as builders made an appearance at Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

During the meeting, there was a public hearing and consideration for Iplan Consulting on behalf of Century Communities for land use approvals within the Casa Vista Planned Area Development.

Casa Vista, which is located between Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Selma Highway west of Mitchell Road, was platted and improved in 2007. Currently, multiple requests have been made by Richmond American Homes and Century Communities, which both own lots within Casa Vista.

“However, due to years of inactivity, there are certain areas that do have to be touched up,” city Planner Jim Gagliardi said.

According to the presentation, landscaping and drainage areas are missing materials per Casa Vista’s final landscape plan, the picnic and recreation areas require maintenance and some fencing needs to be repaired.

“All three builders (including a sister company) want to see those improvements complete sooner rather than later,” a representative from Iplan Consulting said.

The commission approved a housing product for the area consisting of five 40-foot-wide single- and two-story floor plans, each with three elevations and multiple color schemes, ranging from 1,971 square feet to 2,886 square feet for 95 lots.

City of Casa Grande  

The commission approved a housing product and a conditional use permit for Iplan Consulting on behalf of Century Communities. 

A conditional use permit was also approved for a model home sales complex consisting of a 2,600-square-foot model home with a sales office and a temporary off-street parking area to be located at the northwest corner of Brooklyn Drive and Parker Lane.

Right down the road, Richmond American Homes was approved for a conditional use permit for a model home sales complex consisting of three model homes ranging from 1,812 to 1,862 square feet at Brooklyn Drive and Parker Lane.

A zone change requested by Mike Keck from single-family residential to multifamily residential for approximately 2.5 acres generally east of Schultz Street and north of McMurray Boulevard was also approved.

According to the agenda, all uses permitted or conditional in the multifamily residential zone district would be allowed, and approval of a major site plan would be required.

The project aims to create a multifamily apartment complex and address the growing need for multifamily residences.

“It might need some second story, but if the city was opposed to that we would do whatever the city felt was in the best interest of the community around,” Keck said.

During the meeting, a request for zoning text amendments relating to marijuana sites was approved.

The amendments revise the regulations that were adopted in 2011 and expand them to address both medical marijuana and adult use marijuana including cultivation facilities, infusion facilities and testing facilities.

“Essentially the only changes that we’ve made are to expand the code to allow adult use marijuana products and to eliminate the reference to medical marijuana and just more generalize it to marijuana products,” said Planning and Development Director Paul Tice.

The amendments were forwarded with a recommendation for adoption to the City Council.