CASA GRANDE — An updated draft of the fourth version of a state plan to help govern the use of groundwater in the western part of Pinal County has been released and a public hearing date has been set to discuss the plan.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources announced that an updated version of the fourth management plan for the Pinal Active Management Area has been uploaded to its website, https://new.azwater.gov/ama/management-plans, and the department has started taking public comments.
The department will take written comments by mail, email or fax at its offices in Phoenix until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20. Comments should be mailed to: Sharon Scantlebury, Docket Supervisor, Arizona Department of Water Resources, P.O. Box 36020, Phoenix, AZ 85006-6020. Comments can be emailed to email@example.com or faxed to 602-771-8686.
There are five Active Management Areas in the state located in the Phoenix, Pinal, Prescott, Santa Cruz County and Tucson areas. The plans were created as part of Arizona’s 1980 Groundwater Management Act. The plans are designed to control the use and encourage the conservation of groundwater in those locations.
The first draft of the fourth Pinal AMA management plan was released to the public in March and was blasted by members of the Groundwater Users Advisory Council for the Pinal Active Management Area during a meeting at the end of May. The Pinal GUAC was supposed to discuss the draft plan at its meeting in April, but that meeting was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The changes in Pinal’s fourth AMA plan include allowing ADWR to audit conservation programs used by an irrigation district or municipal water user, make changes to the agricultural and municipal water conservation incentive programs and more.
In May, GUAC Chairman David Snider criticized the first draft of the plan, calling it “dense” and “not well constructed.” Data listed in one chapter didn’t match data found in other chapters, he said.
There were a number of areas in the text of the 350-page plan that looked like they had been cut and pasted from other management plans such as the one created for Phoenix, he said. There was also no information on how well conservation plans were working in another chapter and other parts were difficult to understand.
According to information posted to ADWR’s webpage for the plan, much of the data and information used in the first draft of the plan has been updated and some other adjustments have been made.
The department has also scheduled a public hearing to discuss the plan and take public comments at 1 p.m. on Aug. 20. The hearing will be livestreamed on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors webpage and at https://bit.ly/Pinal4MPHearing.
People wanting to make a public comment should use the https://bit.ly/Pinal4MPHearing link to livestream the meeting on a computer. A link to a speaker card will be provided in the Webex conferencing program for those who want to make a comment over the internet during the meeting. Commenters will be called on in the order that speaker cards are submitted. The department may limit the amount of time each person has to make their comment to make sure that everyone has a chance to speak.
Residents who want to attend the meeting in-person at the Pinal County 1891 Historic Courthouse, 135 N. Pinal St., Florence, and make a comment on the plan must contact Sharon Scantlebury by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 602-771-8472 to make arrangements. Residents attending in-person must wear a mask, submit to a temperature check before entering the building and follow social distancing guidelines. The department may limit the number of people who attend in-person.
Once the hearing has been held and all of the public comments collected, ADWR will make any necessary modifications to the plan. The department plans to adopt the plan in mid-September.
The fourth management plan was supposed to be completed in 2008, but cuts in ADWR staffing during the housing bust forced the department to write the plan for each area one after the other instead of working on them all at the same time, as it has done in the past.
At the same time ADWR staff is starting work on the process of creating a fifth plan for all five Active Management Areas in the state. The department hopes to have a draft of the fifth plan in place by 2021 and have a final fifth plan adopted by 2022.