Non-partisan Legal Review Validates Gosar Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 29, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a legal review  of the Congressman’s legislation, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement, validating his previous assertions:

“The report released yesterday by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service confirms what I have been saying all along about the Bill Williams Water Rights Settlement: this law is a win-win for Arizona and for Mohave County. Despite wild and baseless claims from some opponents, CRS affirmed that this legislation is good for private property owners, will result in a significant net water benefit to the basin and will not result in a loss of any tax revenue to Mohave County.

“The Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement will provide certainty for the Bagdad Mine, which has an annual economic impact of $339.1 million to the state of Arizona, and sustains nearly 4,000 direct and indirect jobs. I am proud to see the hard work of countless Arizonans who supported this legislation, including the entire Arizona House and Senate delegation, validated by a non-partisan legal review.”

Highlights of the CRS report are copied below. The full report can be found HERE.

Question 1. Does this law authorize the construction of any casinos?
“No.”

Question 2. Does this law regulate the future I-11?
“No…the lease and donation of property at Planet Ranch for the Conservation Program also does not appear to have any potential impact on the proposed I-11 Corridor alignment.”

Question 3. Does this law require ADWR to take water rights away from Mohave County?
“…The proposed sever and transfer order attached to the Big Sandy River-Planet Ranch Agreement, which ADWR committed to enter as a party to the agreement,45 states that it “will not affect, infringe upon, or interfere with vested or existing water rights.”46 Nor could it; under Arizona law…Further, in its challenge to ADWR’s decision to dismiss its objections, Mohave County stipulated that “it does not hold any water rights in the Bill Williams [River] watershed. Because the settlement agreements themselves do not appear to affect directly any vested water right held by Mohave County, and because the Act does not address any water rights beyond those affected by the settlements, it does not appear that the Act has an effect on Mohave County’s water rights.”

Question 4. Does this law reduce public access to Planet Ranch and the MSCP lands involved?
“No. At present, the entirety of Planet Ranch is Freeport’s private property…”

Question 5. Does this law take any federal land into trust for the Tribe or transfer ownership of Planet Ranch to the federal government?
“…neither the Act nor the settlements transfer any property into trust for the Hualapai Tribe or its members…Nor does the Act or the settlement agreements transfer ownership of any portion of Planet Ranch to the federal government…”

Question 6. Will this law result in Mohave County losing a “$7,000 a year income stream for 100 years that is worth $39,500,000 in today’s dollars”?
“No… Assuming, however, that Mohave County would lose the full $7,627.54 assessed each year for the next 100 years, the total lost revenues [could] come to $762,754 in nominal dollars, which would need to be discounted in order to determine the real present value.64…On September 6, 2014, AGFC affirmed that it would make payments in lieu of taxes on the Planet Ranch property if and when it acquires the property.72 At that meeting, AGFC’s counsel noted that AGFC “has routinely made payments in lieu of property taxes with all of its properties and there is no indication that it would not continue” to do so.73 Thus, in the event that AGFC acquires the Planet Ranch property, it appears that Mohave County would not see a reduction in property tax revenues attributable to that portion of Planet Ranch…”

Question 7. Will this law reduce Freeport’s ability to exercise water rights in the basin?
“Yes….under the Agreement and the Act, Freeport and AGFC’s combined exercisable water rights for the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation area, Lincoln Ranch, and the Wikieup Wellfield would be 16,748.1 acre-feet per year, which would reflect a reduction in excess of 40,000 acre-feet per year of water rights that Freeport could assert in the basin.”

Question 8. Does this law authorize increased water use from the Wikieup Wellfield if additional development occurs at the Bagdad town site?
“No.”

Question 9. Does this law authorize the construction of a new pipeline from Planet Ranch or Lincoln Ranch to the Bagdad Mine?
“No… through the sever and transfer, Freeport intends to change the point of diversion of the water rights at issue from one location in the Bill Williams River watershed to another point in that watershed, not to “physically move water from its current place of use.”87

Background

H.R. 4924, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement, was signed into law by the President on December 17, 2014.

This law facilitates the achievement of a fair and equitable settlement of certain claims within the Bill Williams River watershed among the Hualapai Tribe, the U.S. Department of the Interior acting on behalf of itself and as trustee for the Tribe, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and Freeport McMoRan Minerals Corporation. The legislation ratified the Big Sandy River-Planet Water Rights Settlement Agreement and the Hualapai Tribe Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Agreement.

The Congressional Budget Office determined that the bill cost nothing to the federal government.

Additionally, The Hualapai Tribe benefits from this legislation by securing certain water rights from two non-federal contributions by Freeport-McMoRan for an infrastructure fund and an economic development fund. Mohave County benefits by keeping 175 mining jobs and $16 million in economic benefit. Furthermore, the State of Arizona will pay Mohave County in full for all property tax revenue lost as a result of the legislation (just over $2,000 per year). Arizona and Mohave County both benefit from the bill as the as this legislation will result in an overall net water use reduction in the basin of nearly 30,000 acre-feet per year. This reduction benefits residents in Lake Havasu and Bullhead City as this water can be put to use in future water and economic development projects.

Congressman Gosar has posted a fact sheet on his website for this law which can be foundHERE.

Contact: Steven D. Smith
Steven.Smith (at) mail.house (dot) gov

SHARE
Previous articleHOUSE PASSES U.S. REP. MCSALLY BILL TO BETTER PROTECT LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Next articleSinema Introduces Legislation to Protect Arizona Firefighters, Keep Arizona Families Safe