Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District is seeking a process to change the place and purpose of use of Present Perfected Rights attached to seven Mohave Valley farms.

CAGRD is pursuing the purchase of the properties and their associated water rights with the intent to implement a rotational fallowing program within Mohave Valley Irrigation and Drainage District to generate a water supply for the Phoenix and Tucson areas. CAGRD is in the due diligence phase of the proposed sale, which is set for closing April 18.

Representatives of Central Arizona Water Conservation District met with Arizona Department of Water Resources representatives in February, according to a March 1 letter to ADWR from CAGRD obtained by The Daily News.

The meeting’s purpose was to seek a process to “add a second place and purpose of use for the entitlements that it acquires to support diversion and use of water for groundwater replenishment purposes when CAWCD’s lands (or lands owned by other participating landowners in MVIDD) are being fallowed,” should the transaction be completed, wrote Perri Benemelis, CAGRD manager.

“We’ve been meeting with ADWR for some time,” Benemelis said Monday. “We’ve met on multiple occasions to talk about this particular transaction.” 

Present Perfected Rights are the most senior or first priority water rights, as described by the Supreme Court decree in Arizona v. California in 1964. Water users with contracts established with the U.S. after 1968, including agriculture, industrial and municipalities, hold fourth priority rights. CAGRD also is seeking changes to place and purpose of fourth priority rights.

The seven Mohave Valley farms CAGRD seeks to purchase come with 2,500 acre-feet of PPRs as part of their 14,000 acre-feet of water rights, Benemelis said.

According to Benemelis’ letter, ADWR director Thomas Buschatzke declined to take a position on the transferability of miscellaneous PPRs “without modification of the (Arizona v. California) decree without also allowing input from other potentially interested parties.” 

Doug MacEachern, ADWR spokesman, confirmed Monday that the meeting took place.

“Director Buschatzke would like to emphasize that he has yet to make a decision as to whether there will be a public meeting on the PPR transfer,” MacEachern said. “Likewise, he has yet to decide what form the department’s judgment regarding the PPR issue will take — whether it will be part of a review of the transfer policy or within a fact-based actual application for transfer.”

The proposed sale of the seven Mohave Valley farms is contingent on revision of a MVIDD resolution that blocks movement of contracted Colorado River water outside the district. MVIDD board members released on the district’s website last week proposed language changes to the resolution that would allow movement of Colorado River water outside the MVIDD boundaries for a rotational land-fallowing program for a defined period, but not in perpetuity.

Emphasizing that his comments are based on his own understanding and are not an official response by the water district or its board, Perry Muscelli, MVIDD Board of Directors treasurer said, “We have clearly told CAGRD that we are opposed to a separate PPR contract for them with a second place of use. 

“But it is not up to us and they may not need our approval for that alone,” Muscelli added. “There may be other reasons for this application, which I don’t understand at this time. They tell us that it would be subject to and under a district-approved fallowing program, which doesn’t exactly reconcile in my mind. If there is to be any transfers — big if — it needs to be controlled and regulated by a district-approved fallowing program. PPR water can be part of that in my opinion. I might be misunderstanding something, but I expect that CAGRD will come around to this view of the matter for which they already verbally assure us.”

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