Dennis Patch

Members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes voted to recall Chairman Dennis Patch April 28. Patch, seen here at the presentation for the Run for the Fallen April 18, received 469 votes to recall him and 467 votes to keep him in office.

By a very narrow margin, members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes voted April 28 to remove Dennis Patch as Tribal Chairman. In a special recall election, the unofficial results showed 469 Tribal members voted “yes” to remove Patch, while 467 voted “no” to keep him in office.

The election saw all the members of the Tribal Council facing recall. Patch and Council Member Valerie Welsh-Tahbo were the only members to be recalled. Welsh-Tahbo received 495 “yes” votes to recall her and 441 “no” votes for her to stay on the council.

Here are the unofficial totals for the other council members, listed by “yes” votes to recall and “no” votes to stay on the council:

Keith Moses, Tribal Vice Chairman:  442 – 468

Amelia Flores: 334 – 586

Granthum Stevens:  450 – 483

Johnny Hill Jr.:  403 – 535

Bobby Page:  358 – 575

Herman “T.J.” Laffoon:  415 – 490

Johnson “J.D.” Fisher:  365 – 565

The election results were not posted at the Tribal offices until almost 10 p.m. on Sunday, April 29.

The Tribal Council met Monday morning, April 30, to canvas and certify the results of the election.

Two Tribal members, Tim Stevens-Welsh and Amber Van Fleet, began the recall effort in response to efforts by the tribal government to lease some of their water rights to other entities. They said water is precious to the Mohave people, and their greatest resource. They alleged tribal leaders were gambling with their future in planning to lease the water rights. They accused them of acting without the knowledge and consent of Tribal members.

In published reports, including a statement sent to Tribal members in September, Patch said leasing CRIT’s water would be a benefit to communities around Arizona. He added the funds received from leasing water would be used for economic development on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, most notably to repair the rundown system of irrigation canals operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He said the needs of the Tribes, including environmental protection, would be an important part of any agreement.

The Tribes’ allotment from the Colorado River .comes to 662,000 acre feet per year. That’s more than double the State of Nevada’s allotment of 300,000 acre feet. According to an article on azcentral.com, the Tribes’ allotment comes to one-half of what the Central Arizona Project sends to Phoenix and Tucson, and the Tribes receive 24 percent of the State of Arizona’s allotment. It’s estimated they could provide 150,000 acre feet per year for off-reservation uses.

It’s also “safe” water in that the Tribes have first priority in the event of shortages.

The Tribes began informal conversations with the Salt River Project in 2014. Those talks eventually led to confidential negotiations with the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project.

Dave Roberts, SRP’s associate general manager of water resources, said CRIT’s water was the most significant supply in the state they could use outside the CAP. He said this water could serve as a bridge between the present and future desalinization technologies.

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