House Refuses Loan To Pinal Farmers Facing Colorado River Water Shortage

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2019 - 11:34am

Farmers will have to wait for federal money to replace lost water for their crops after lawmakers blocked a plan to drill new wells.

The House Appropriations Committee rejected pleas to advance a $20 million state loan to Pinal farmers impacted by the drought contingency plan, or DCP. Farmers had hoped to build new wells and canals before huge reductions of water from the Colorado River set in by 2022.

But several lawmakers questioned why taxpayers should fund it when the contingency plan already set aside some cash for farmers.

It would be a different issue, Rep. Aaron Lieberman reasoned, if there were a way to impose a user tax on the well water.

"Without that feature, it seems to me like we could very well end up essentially just providing some additional subsidy without any recourse to get the money back," he said.

Rep. David Cook warned his colleagues timing is critical for the farmers.

"We have to have this water be delivered at some point in time by the end of 2022 or DCP numbers don't work,'' he said. "That water has to be delivered by that date.''

And Cook said that's a point his colleagues apparently do not understand. "I kind of remember a biblical story where the pharaoh told someone to make, what, bricks without straw?'' he told Capitol Media Services. "Is that what we're doing here?''

The loan is expected to come up again when lawmakers begin debating the state budget.

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