Rim County Hangs Together

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Got to love Ben Franklin. Far-sighted fellow. He even understood the dynamics of the Rim County water wars – and the Blue Ridge Reservoir.

At least, we assume that’s what he had in mind when John Hancock urged the Founding Fathers to “hang together.” Whereupon Ben added with a wry smile: “We must hang together, or we shall all hang separately.”

Obviously, Rim County officials get it, judging by the impressive lineup at Thursday’s meeting to remove one of the last stumbling blocks strewn in the path of a Blue Ridge Reservoir pipeline.

Some 28 public officials gathered, representing the Forest Service, Salt River Project, Tonto Apache Tribe, Payson, Star Valley, Gila County and other groups with a stake in the delivery of more than 3,500 acre feet of water annually.

The agreement required groups accustomed to whacking one another over the head to come to terms on a complicated issue that will play a crucial role in the future of the whole region.

The folks involved rose to the occasion — like so many declaration signers. Payson and the Salt River Project set the stage by negotiating the deal to build a $30-million pipe running along Houston Mesa Road to deliver an average of 3,000 acre feet annually. But that left other small communities and the Tonto Apache Tribe out of the deal. Those other groups could negotiate for as much as 628 acre-feet annually. But how could all those groups come to terms in time for Payson to engineer its pipeline to accommodate them all?

Enter Gila County – which agreed to front $4 million to cut all those other communities into the deal.

The meeting this week pulled it all together, forming a sufficient common front to convince the Forest Service to move forward on the 18-month process of approving the pipeline route.

Which, naturally enough, reminds us once more of Ben Franklin – or rather the little known follow-up quip delivered by the “luxurious, heavy gentleman” Benjamin Harrison to the pint-sized Elbridge Gerry on the subject of hanging. “When the hanging comes,” said Harrison “I shall have the advantage, for you will be kicking in the air when it is all over for me.”

He must have been talking about how much easier it is to haul water to a little guy like Beaver Valley than to the a “luxurious gentleman” like Payson. Don’t you think?

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