One Rio Verde plan dies, another advances 

Rio Verde, Scottsdale, Kolodin, Wadsack, Navajo Nation,

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One Rio Verde plan dies, another advances 

House members approved a new measure to get water to the Rio Verde community Monday that Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, is offering as an alternative to appease Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, and the Senate killed an alternative plan. 

Since Rio Verde was cut off from Scottsdale’s water supply on Jan 1, the Legislature has tried and failed several times to come up with a solution that Democrats and Republicans can get on board with. 

The latest bill, Senate Bill 1432, is similar to Kolodin’s earlier House Bill 2561 that passed the House in May, but language in the bill about “wildcat subdivisions” and developmental lot-splitting was a concern for many Republicans, including Petersen.  

Kolodin said he tried everything he could to get Petersen to put up his bill for a vote. He included the language as an agreement he reached with Democrats to get enough support from two-thirds of the House.  

Kolodin, water, drought, Rio Verde
Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, stands outside the Capitol building on Jan. 11, 2022. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“We tried really hard to put it up in its current form with the lot-split portion which I happen to think is good law and told him so,” Kolodin said. “I want my Democratic colleagues to know we tried everything short of twisting his arm.” 

Most of Kolodin’s bill remains in Senate Bill 1432. The bill still would direct Scottsdale to provide water to Rio Verde through an intergovernmental agreement with Maricopa County for three years. It also would take effect immediately with an emergency clause.  

The bill will create a standpipe district run by a board of five directors; one appointed by House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, one appointed by Petersen, one appointed by Gov. Katie Hobbs, one appointed by the commissioner of the Arizona Department of Real Estate Susan Nicolson and one appointed by the Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources Tom Buschatzke. 

“There’s people out there that wanted to create a government entity. And if they’re on that board, then they’ll be here lobbying to keep that board the long-term solution next session,” Rio Verde resident Cody Reim said. 

An emergency clause in the House needs an “aye” vote from 40 members and the new version of the measure passed 40-20 with 22 Republican votes and 18 votes from Democrats.  

An alternative Rio Verde proposal from Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, died 15-15 in the Senate on Monday afternoon. That legislation, House Bill 2445, had the support of several Rio Verde residents. 

The original sponsor of Senate Bill 1432, Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, allowed Kolodin’s language to be added to her bill, and argued with residents about it in the Senate hallway on Monday afternoon. She ended up as the deciding “no” vote that killed Griffin’s bill. Every other Republican in the Senate voted “yes.” 

Four Rio Verde residents who came to the Capitol to lobby in support of House Bill 2445 told Wadsack that they don’t want an intergovernmental agreement that would create a board to manage the community’s water. They said Wadsack told them she was pushing back against Griffin. “She claimed that Representative Griffin went behind her back and stole votes off her bill, which is not the case,” Reim said – referring to an earlier Rio Verde plan. 

Lack of water access isn’t just a Rio Verde problem, said Rep. Mae Peshlakai, D-Cameron. She said many of her constituents on the Navajo Nation live without running water and have done so much longer than the six months that Rio Verde residents have endured.  

“I could use that as a reason to vote no, but that is not how you lead and that is not how you treat people who are asking for your help,” Peshlakai told her colleagues on the House floor. “But I want you to remember there are others who need water and can’t get it.” 

To find middle ground, the bill directs the Arizona Department of Water Resources to issue a report on whether and how a person who seeks a building permit for six or more residences within an active management area in unincorporated areas should obtain a certificate of assured water supply from the department. 

Democrats have argued the cause for Rio Verde’s water crisis is due to developers evading state law, which requires residential properties must have access to water for 100 years through the wildcat subdivision.  

Another Rio Verde bill from Griffin was vetoed by Hobbs in May, and the governor cited the lack of language addressing wildcat subdivisions as one of the reasons for her veto. 

Hobbs specifically asked for a bipartisan solution with an emergency clause that addresses the subdivision issue and the only Rio Verde bill left in the Legislature has two of those three things.  

Residents worried about summer heat say they don’t expect to get water for at least two months. 

If Kolodin’s bill passes, then residents will focus their energies into getting good people appointed to the standpipe board. That means lobbying Toma, Petersen and Hobbs.