Payson Again Seeks Bill To Help Pipeline

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Once more into the breach — dear friends.

When he coined that famous phrase, Shakespeare’s King Henry V was urging English soldiers to swarm through a hole in the wall of a French town — but he could have just as easily been talking about Payson’s effort to get Congress to tell the Forest Service to stop messing with the Blue Ridge pipeline.

A key House committee will take up a revived bill that will put the Bureau of Reclamation in sole charge of Payson’s $33 million Blue Ridge pipeline project, which must pass through two national forests to deliver 3,000 acre-feet annually starting in 2015.

Last year, Payson nearly won approval of a virtually identical measure, introduced by then-Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, a Flagstaff Democrat. However, after making it through multiple committees and the U.S. Senate, that bill died for lack of a vote on the floor of the House in the rush to adjourn and campaign for re-election.

The election delivered the House to the Republicans and replaced Kirkpatrick with Rep. Paul Gosar, a Flagstaff Republican. Now the freshman Gosar has taken up the cause.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the new bill will get a hearing on May 12.

The bill would make it clear that the Bureau of Reclamation in the Interior Department will oversee the construction of the pipeline, which already runs from the Blue Ridge Reservoir to Washington Park. The pipeline will eventually continue from there to a new water treatment plant near Mesa del Caballo, off Houston Mesa Road.

A representative from Rep. Gosar’s office attended last week’s council meeting to assure Payson the bill has the full support of the former dentist and one of the class of conservative freshmen endorsed by the Tea Party. She said Gosar is also involved in negotiations to clear the way for a land trade to allow the Resolution Copper Mine to begin deep mining near Globe. Federal and mining company negotiators are working on a package of measures to convince the San Carlos Apache Reservation to drop its objections to a massive, high-tech copper mine that relies heavily on automated diggers deep beneath the surface, but which could cause large-scale subsidence at the surface near Oak Flats, an area long sacred to the Apache.

Meanwhile, Payson’s Blue Ridge project has been bedeviled by delays caused by the need to get separate approvals from different federal agencies. The most vexing snags have been as a result of the Coconino National Forest’s delays in giving contractors and consultants access to the portion of the existing pipeline that runs from the reservoir to the Rim. Payson and the Salt River Project have spent about $5 million repairing that pipeline, which will ultimately carry 3,000 acre-feet for Payson and another 8,000 to 11,000 acre-feet for SRP. The SRP share will be released into the East Verde River, to flow down to a reservoir near Phoenix.

Evans said he expects the bill will once again get overwhelming support, with the help of Gosar and Sen. Jon Kyl.

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