WIFA comes into focus with Ducey picks

WIFA comes into focus with Ducey picks

Gov. Doug Ducey speaks before members of the state Legislature and others before signing what he and others say is the most significant water legislation in 40 years in Phoenix on July 6. He announced four of his picks for the new Water Infrastructure Finance Authority board earlier this week. BOB CHRISTIE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Gov. Doug Ducey announced four of his five picks for the new Water Infrastructure Finance Authority board earlier this week, meaning more than half of the new board’s members have been selected. Three of his four choices have known ties to the governor.

Those with notable Ducey connections are Andy Tobin, Jonathan Lines, and Buchanan Davis. The governor also selected David Beckham, a Valley real estate investor.

The nine-member WIFA board will decide what to do with the $1 billion the Legislature set aside for water augmentation earlier this year, and smaller amounts for conservation projects. They’ll have the power to approve investments in projects that could include the governor’s preferred water augmentation project – a desalination plant in Mexico.

“Now, with the right team, we’re positioned with $1.4 billion to secure our state’s water future for the next 100 years. The board members of the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority will be important stewards of our water resources, pursuing innovative augmentation and conservation projects,” Ducey said in a news release published October 3.

But the governor insisted that he didn’t choose the four just to rubber stamp his desalination plans.

“There was no litmus test beyond (that they be) high quality individuals,” he said on October 4. “I don’t know their stance (on desalination). I mean, I’ve never talked to them on their stance. I do think they’ll be in favor of good ideas,” he added.

“We think that the desalination idea is a very good idea, but there’s still some things left to do on that. There’s 90 plus days remaining in the term, I’m confident that we’ll get that done. Regardless of what happens by January 2, that board has ample resources to work on conservation, augmentation and innovation. There are things beyond desalination, like targeted drip irrigation, many things that we can do to make our water future even more secure and brighter than it is today,” Ducey said.

Tobin is a former state legislator and, since losing a bid for Congress in 2014, has received six appointments from Ducey. Aside from the WIFA board, Ducey put him in charge of the Arizona Department of Administration, Arizona Department of Insurance, Arizona Department of Financial Institutions and Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, as well as appointing him to the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Lines is a Yuma County supervisor who owns a contracting business and has deep ties to the Arizona Republican establishment. He was chair of the Arizona Republican Party from 2017 to 2019, a period that included Ducey’s 20 re-election campaign.

Davis comes from the Governor’s Office, where he’s currently working as a natural resources adviser to Ducey. He also previously worked for former Sen. Jeff Flake, who long represented Arizona in Washington and also helmed the conservative Goldwater Institute.

Beckham is a Scottsdale-based real estate developer. The announcement put out by the Governor’s Office said that “David’s expertise includes working with governmental agencies and creating unique financial transactions with some of the largest institutions in the U.S. He has been involved in various capacities related to Arizona water issues for many years.”

The rules governing the new board required the governor to make two picks from large counties (Maricopa, Pima and Pinal) and two from smaller counties. Lines lives in Yuma County and Tobin lives in Yavapai County; Davis is from Pinal County and Beckham is from Maricopa County.

Last month, Senate caucus leaders chose their picks for the board. Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, selected Ted Cooke, the general manager of the Central Arizona Project, the canal that funnels Colorado River water into the state. Sen. Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, picked environmental attorney Susan Montgomery.

Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, and House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, will each make one of the next two appointments. After that, it’s back to the governor, who will appoint the final board member from a list of subject-matter experts submitted by Bowers and Fann.