Opinion: Water deal is great for Hualapai Tribe but not for county

A view of the area affected by the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act. Photo from Freeport Minerals Corp / Planet Ranch Project Fact Sheet

Supervisors in Movahe County, Arizona, explain why they oppose H.R.4924, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act, despite benefits for the Hualapai Tribe:
Chairwoman Counts makes a good point that the Hualapais and their Grand Canyon Skywalk employs a significant amount of people in Mohave County. The problem with her analysis is that the Planet Ranch transaction has nothing to do with the Skywalk. It is Highway 93 (the future Interstate 11), and the land and water adjacent to it, which is at issue, not the Skywalk.

It was interesting that Counts claimed the Hualapais had no intention of exercising their right of first refusal to that land given by Freeport McMoRan and, if they did, had no intention of taking it into trust (which would remove it from the rolls of private land owned in Mohave County). However, Mohave County remains skeptical. First, if they don’t intend to exercise the right, why did they negotiate for its inclusion? Second, if there is no intention of taking the land into trust, why did Congressman Gosar flat refuse to place Section 210 language into his legislation which would have protected against that? Third, Chairwoman Counts equivocated, in that her assurance was limited to the “foreseeable future.” Considered in total, there is considerable cause for concern.

Second, while the tribe is a contributor to Mohave County’s economy, and its approximately 1,700 members citizens of the county, there are some important distinctions from a contribution standpoint. Most recently, the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District (which services the ingress/egress point to the Skywalk) nearly went bankrupt. This was due, in large part, to having to provide emergency services to tourists entering and exiting the Skywalk. The tribe does not contribute towards the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District and does not pay property taxes or county sales tax on the sales made within the reservation, including the Skywalk. This is perfectly legal, but the consequence of this legality is that the homeowners within the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District, who actually pay for the fire department, almost lost their fire department due to the burdens associated with uncompensated services the tribe’s business activities were placing upon it.

Get the Story:
Steve Moss and Buster Johnson: Water deal great for Hualapais, not for Mohave County (The Havasu News-Herald 12/20)

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