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Federal government attempting to halt development in Cochise County

Sen. Gail Griffin (File photo)

Nearly two decades of simmering conflict over water resources in Cochise County reached an explosive climax recently when bureaucrats with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued an unprecedented and stunning ultimatum to the state of Arizona: Stop development near the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA).

The federal government’s demand came in an ominous letter to the Arizona Department of Water Resources regarding a long-awaited residential construction project in Sierra Vista that received preliminary city approval nearly six years ago. The project would provide new homes to thousands of residents and would feature a water treatment plant capable of allowing over

4 million gallons of water to be recharged into the aquifer each day.

In spite of this, the BLM claims that the project should not be permitted because a sufficient water supply is not “legally available.”

The agency’s letter, and its choice to use the phrase “legally available” has chilling implications for all residents, property owners and property rights advocates in Cochise County as well as the entire country. By claiming that sufficient water for the development is physically available, but is legally the property of the federal government, the Obama administration is signaling its determination to control the water, not only within the SPRNCA, but anywhere near it as well.

This blatant attempt to steal Arizona’s water begins a new chapter in a decades-long struggle over property and water rights in Cochise County. This struggle started with the creation of the SPRNCA in 1988, and has continued ever since. It has pitted property owners and civic leaders against federal bureaucrats and radical environmentalists determined to stop all private development near the San Pedro River.

While the current dispute revolves around one specific project, Cochise County residents should be under no illusion regarding what’s really at stake: the federal government’s ability to take away your water rights, and thus, your freedom to use your property as you see fit. We all want clean air and a clean, renewable supply of water, and we can have both without surrendering those rights.

If the BLM is successful, the federal government’s power to halt growth will be unfettered. Radical environmental groups, with their partners in Congress, will be able to create wilderness areas and no- growth corridors throughout the country and declare that any nearby supplies of water are “legally unavailable.” Certainly, this is not the kind of government our founders envisioned when they crafted the Constitution, with property rights as one of its core principles.

Now that the federal government has made its intentions clear, it is time for Cochise County residents to respond by telling their local, state, and, most importantly, federal leaders to stop the BLM’s water grab. If Cochise County and the state of Arizona stand firm against this blatant abuse of federal power, we can send a powerful message to policymakers in Washington D.C. that Arizona residents will fight for our property rights. On the other hand, if we submit without a fight, another precious freedom will be lost to unelected bureaucrats and their partners in the radical environmental community.

As the old saying goes, “He who controls the water, controls the land.”

These latest moves by the BLM show that, in Cochise County, the federal government is desperately trying to control both.

— Gail Griffin, a Republican, represents Legislative District 25 in the Arizona Senate.


  1. The BLM is entirely correct: water in Cochise Co. is oversubscribed. One only has to look at the falling water table, dry springs, and streams and rivers that no longer flow year around. To kill the San Pedro, a resource that belongs to all Arizonans and no doubt influenced the decision of those that moved to Cochise Co. because of its beauty and bio-diversity, is not good policy so a few developers can get rich. Growth and renewable water are not compatible in a desert.

  2. 0bama and the radical leftist wackodoos use the EPA as their enforcer bringing the hand of slavery and oppression back from the depths of black slavery. Democrats are the fathers of slavery and the Republican party was formed to combat slavery.

    The time has come to end the reign of this administration of oppressors and vote as many times as democrats do to make 0bama and the EPA one and done. This is what you get when Conservatives get comfortable. Stop losing elections and VOTE every time and all the time!

  3. The question is not whether water is “oversubscribed” or if the water table is falling. The question is whether we will resist, or not, expropriation of resources by the federal government. Yes, a good case can be made that further withdrawals from the water basin should be limited, perhaps severely. But this ought to be done with attention to all stakeholders, most importantly those who happen to own the property over the basin. Expropriation arbitrarily increases the stake of those who have the least interest in a rational exploitation of natural resources. That’s the left extremist environmentalists, who assign a value of zero to anyone else’s interest in a natural resource. That’s why they are properly called “radical.” BLM is their cat’s paw.

  4. This is journalism? Talk about a slanted piece of propaganda. Gee, this is real difficult math. Finite resources. Increased population. Resources run low. An adult has to step in and tell people the reality of the situation.

    Cue Arizona real estate developers to unleash their pitbulls of propaganda. Money before reality! That should be the state slogan.

  5. I get a chuckle of the fools who make fairytale claims about how water, which is the most abundant resource on this earth will no longer exist in certain areas.

    I guess they never visited Hoover Dam. Just one example of man-kinds ingenuity on making solutions to any problems.

    Like one suggestion I will offer:

    How bout constructing a water system pipeline that can crisscross the nation so that flood prone areas can have the excess water contained and then transferred to areas that need it? Hmmm. Not bad for just a high school graduate.

    The simple Simon envirowhackos should open their ears more and mouth less.

  6. Kevin Quillinan

    The Israelis have come up with a water maker that makes water from ambient air. This system was developed for the military to have access to water in desert areas. The system has been put to use in villages in india and Africa, providing fresh clean drinking water to whole villages at one station. Can we perhaps bring this technology into the picture? A housing development is simply stated, a village of sorts. If it works in india, why can’t it work in Cochise County, and elsewhere in drought stricken areas of Texas, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona? Food for thought…And…lets all try to work together on this problem, which isn’t going away anytime soon.

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