By Daniel Dullum | Casa Grande Dispatch
Dick Powell, a Casa Grande businessman and city councilman, was selected chairman of the Pinal Local Water Group Tuesday during the committee’s inaugural meeting at the historic Second Courthouse in Florence.
Tiffany Shedd, an attorney, farmer and artist from Eloy, was selected vice chairwoman.
“It’s a real serious issue,” Powell said. “We’ve always been an agricultural county, and when this issue came up by surprise to most people, we got real involved and rolled up our sleeves. It affects the economy and a lot of other things.”
“So I hope we build a bridge here, and hopefully, we can come up with a win-win so this situation isn’t as dangerous as it appears right now for the farming industry,” he said.
The Pinal Local Water Group, composed of 17 members from throughout Pinal County, was recently formed in response to a Arizona Department of Water Resources plan to phase out extinguishment credits held by farmers.
The extinguishment credits may be sold in full or in part when farmland is retired. Though the land is not affected while being used for agriculture, a phase-out — reduced incrementally each year until they reach zero — would affect future land values.
Jeff Chandler of ADWR was asked to make an “unbiased” presentation, representing both sides of the debate, when the group meets again.
Powell said the group has until Sept. 15, 2014, to analyze the planned phase-out, discuss alternatives and make recommendations.
Information on future meetngs can be found online at www. azwater.gov/azdwr/misc/Pinal- LocalWaterGroup.htm.