News

Bill to turn AZ water project partisan fails

Sydney Ritter
Mesa Legend

AZ Rep Mark Finchem
AZ Rep Mark Finchem

The State Legislature struck down a bill that would have made the non-partisan Central Arizona Project (CAP) to function under a political party label. In January, Arizona Representative Mark Finchem (R) of Oro Valley proposed House Bill (HB) 2112, also know as the Water Partisan Bill. In written reports, Finchem has said the purpose for creating the bill was be to increase funding to help make canal water cleaner. The bill failed to pass in the House of Representatives in mid-February with a split party vote of 27-32. But Finchem wants to bring it back for reconsideration.

A majority of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) board, the group that manages and operates CAP, also opposed the bill. Mark Lewis, a 20-year CAWCD member, endorsed it, stating the bill could help grow voter participation on water district issues. HB 2112 was also expected to help attract farmers and minorities to participate in the CAWCD board. But opponents like CAWCD member Karen Cesare said the measure is unnecessary.

“Water is for everybody and I don’t think water is something that should be partisan,” Cesare said. “We work together on some very technical policies and [for example] physical infrastructure is used to deliver water to 80% of Arizona’s population and actively make policy decisions around that.” HB 2112 was also expected to help attract farmers and minorities to participate in the CAWCD board. But opponents like CAWCD member Karen Cesare said the measure is unnecessary. “Water is for everybody and I don’t think water is something that should be partisan,” Cesare said. “We work together on some very technical policies and [for example] physical infrastructure is used to deliver water to 80% of Arizona’s population and actively make policy decisions around that.”

The Arizona Hydrological Society (AHS) also opposed HB 2112. Alan Dulaney is the water policy administrator for the agency. He said he’s extremely worried that there are two house bills proposing that candidates running for a member seat in the CAWCD be identified on the ballot by a party affiliation.  “Partisan politics has become very ugly over the last few years,” Dulaney said. “Interjecting party loyalties into water issues is not a good thing and could foretell major conflicts to come that would prevent action just when Arizona needs it most. Water has always transcended politics in Arizona. We should keep it that way,” he added. Currently the bill is being reviewed and altered as it makes its way back through the House of Representatives and the Senate.

About Author

Sydney Ritter is the former Managing Editor at the Mesa Legend and a communications major at Arizona State University. She has been working for the Legend since 2016 as a reporter before taking over as News Editor and has spent her last two years as the Managing Editor.

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