WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Ann Kirkpatrick today made significant progress in her fight to end the bureaucratic squabbling that has long troubled the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir project. The legislation she introduced last April would finally allow necessary maintenance and improvements to continue on pipelines surrounding the project and allow them to provide a more reliable water supply to Rim Country. This morning, joining with Payson Mayor Kenny Evans, Rep. Kirkpatrick strongly supported the initiative at the bill's hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.
The Congresswoman's successful push for a hearing will focus Washington's attention on this significant issue for the region. The federal government was given control over the water project, which is located in the Coconino National Forest, in 2005. Ever since, both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service have claimed the right to control access to lands containing the pipeline that delivers water to Payson, holding up routine maintenance and improvements on the project time and again.
Rep. Kirkpatrick's H.R. 1853 would resolve this jurisdictional dispute and allow rehabilitation of existing pumps and other necessary upkeep and development initiatives.
"Politicians in Washington need to understand how important the C.C. Cragin water supply is to Greater Arizona communities," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "We can't allow bureaucratic red tape to tie up the work necessary to keep it flowing.
"This hearing was an important step toward making them listen to us, and we are not going to stop working here. I am going to redouble my efforts to push Congress to move forward with this common-sense solution for folks in Rim Country."
Because of the jurisdictional issues, the Forest Service has required pipeline workers to get a special permit to work at the site, causing frustration and costly delays for the folks in Payson and surrounding communities. The Congresswoman's bill would allow them the access they need without additional delay. It has earned approval from many who are familiar with these challenges -- including Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who spoke in favor of the measure during the hearing.
"Rim Country can't afford to have our long-term water supply put in jeopardy," said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans. "The longer Washington waits to address this jurisdictional dispute, the greater the risk to folks in our communities.
"Congresswoman Kirkpatrick has been a real champion for us on this issue. She not only responded to our concerns by introducing legislation to fix the problem, she is fighting hard on both sides of the aisle to get it passed in both Houses."
Formerly known as Blue Ridge, the C.C. Cragin Dam and Reservoir project was built just 25 miles north of Payson. It has made 3,500 acre-feet of water a year available to Rim Country communities. In 2008, Payson finalized a water-delivery agreement with the Salt River Project that was hailed for guaranteeing the town could meet its future water needs, and the County later agreed to support pipeline expansion so that more communities could get access.