County residents have the opportunity to make themselves heard to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation regarding a proposed transfer of fourth-priority water rights from a farm in Cibola to the Town of Queen Creek.
GSC Farms in Cibola wants to transfer over 1,000 acre feet per year of their fourth-priority Colorado River water rights to the Town of Queen Creek. Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Thomas Buschatzke, recommended Sept. 4, 2020 the U.S. Department of the Interior approve the transfer.
Among the opponents of the transfer are Lake Havasu City Mayor Cal Sheehey, State Dist. 5 Rep. Regina Cobb, and La Paz County District 3 Supervisor Holly Irwin.
GSC currently use the water to irrigate 485 acres. They want to retire that land from agricultural use. Queen Creek wants to use that water for municipal services. The town is part of the Phoenix metropolitan area and is growing rapidly.
Opponents of the transfer said Colorado River communities have a limited supply of water, and they need that water for their own survival and growth. They said the river water should be used for their own growth and not for that of Maricopa and Pima Counties. They added this would set a precedent that could lead to other metropolitan areas seeking Colorado River water.
Proponents of the transfer said water transfers have been common in the history of the West. They said it was not a lot of water, and added that not much more water could be transferred from the Colorado River as the Central Arizona Project canal is already at capacity. They said Queen Creek will use this water for development, and the entire state will benefit from the additional tax revenue that development will generate.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation website, fourth-priority water rights are established by contracts or other arrangements between Reclamation and water users in the State of Arizona. These contracts need to have been entered into after Sept. 30, 1968. The water can be used on federal, state or privately owned lands. The total quantity to be contracted is not to exceed 164,652 acre-feet per year. A contract from December 1972 between the United States and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District allows for water to be transferred via the Central Arizona Project canal.
The final decision on the transfer will be up to the Bureau of Reclamation, which is part of the Interior Department. They are currently in what’s called the “Scoping Period,” and will accept comments until Sept. 24, 2021.
There are a variety of different ways to comment. They are described on Reclamation’s website. You can use the form provided on the website and e-mail it to email@example.com. E-mails can also be sent to this address. The subject line should read GSC Farm-QC Water Transfer EA Comment.
Faxed comments should be sent to 623-773-6480. They should be marked “Attn. Sean Heath.” The subject line should read GSC Farm-QC Water Transfer EA Comment.
If you prefer to send comments by mail, the address is GSC Farm-QC Water Transfer EA Comment, Attn. Sean Heath, Bureau of Reclamation, Phoenix Area Office, 6150 W. Thunderbird Road, Glendale, Ariz. 85306-4001.
Questions should be directed to Sean Heath, Manager, Environmental Division at the Bureau of Reclamation Phoenix Area Office at 623-773-6250.