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Arizona Dept of Resources designates Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin as INA

MOHAVE COUNTY – The Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) stands by former Director Tom Buschatzke’s Dec., 2022 designation of the Hualapai Valley Groundwater Basin as an Irrigation Non-Expansion Area (INA).
Establishment of INA’s generally prohibit additional groundwater use by expanded agriculture production. Buschatzke’s local INA designation that essentially shut off the faucet for new agriculture endeavors is based on assessment that water withdrawals at the time of his decision would deplete the basin over time.
Lawyers for the agency urge Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney to affirm Buschatzke’s Decision and Order and dismiss an appeal of the agency decision filed by legal counsel for agricultural interests using water from the basin north of Kingman.
Counsel for ADWR first requests dismissal contending the Appellants, Opal Investments, LLC, and Steff Investments, LLC, lack standing to bring legal challenge. ADWR lawyers Nicole Klobas and Emily Petrick contend in their Answering Brief submitted May 31 that plaintiffs failed to participate in formal public hearings and are therefore ineligible to seek relief after the fact.
“Because Appellants have not demonstrated that they appeared in the public hearing, either in person or by representative, or through written comments or evidence, they are not a party for purposes of Judicial review,” their Answer argues. “Appellants have not demonstrated that they are parties entitled to Judicial review.”
Defense counsel further suggests the appeal should be rejected for lack of merit. The Answer asserts that Buschatzke had legal authority and a valid basis for designating the INA because it had been demonstrated that there is insufficient groundwater within the basin to provide a reasonably safe supply for irrigation of the cultivated lands in the area at the current rates of withdrawal.
“ADWR noted that the total number of acres in irrigation was 13,936 acres, and irrigation pumping represented over 60% of pumping in the basin,” the reply said. “After 100 years of pumping at the current rate of withdrawal, it is projected that one in 20 existing wells will no longer be pumpable.”
Plaintiff attorney Adriane Hofmeyr said she has until June 21 to submit her Reply Brief. She said that’s the last pleading to be submitted before Judge Blaney contemplates his ruling.
Hofmeyr said the Judge has yet to rule on a request that attorneys provide oral argument before he decides the case. She said his decision is final, absent an appeal to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Dave Hawkins