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Prescott, Prescott Valley Approve New Big Chino Water Agreement With SRP

By Cindy Barks for The Prescott Daily Courier

Several years of testing and monitoring are in store for the Big Chino Ranch
Photo Credit: The Daily Courier

An agreement that obligates Prescott and Prescott Valley to put several million dollars into expanded groundwater examination in the Big Chino Sub-basin got unanimous local approval this week.

On September 19th, the Prescott City Council and the Prescott Valley Town Council jointly approved an agreement with the Salt River Project (SRP) that calls for years of groundwater monitoring and modeling in the Paulden-area Big Chino Sub-basin.

The SRP board approved the agreement earlier this month.

Basically, the agreement obligates the three parties to spend a combined $4.3 million over the next eight years for new monitoring wells in the Big Chino Sub-basin, and for a new “nested” groundwater model that would refine the larger U.S. Geological Survey model on the area.

The monitoring plan will involve the drilling of nine shallow monitoring wells and two deep wells, and will cost about $3.07 million. The schedule calls for installation of five stream gages during the first year, with the well-drilling occurring in the second, third, and fourth years.

The model – estimated at a cost of $1.25 million – is scheduled to get under way in the third year and continue through the sixth year. Among other things, it would include aquifer storage analysis, geophysics, water level data, and a final report.

The agreement requires SRP to pay one-third of the cost for the monitoring and modeling, with Prescott and Prescott Valley taking on the remaining two-thirds. The two communities would further split the cost on the 54.1 percent/45.9 percent Prescott/Prescott Valley breakdown of the total project costs.

Plans for the Big Chino Water Ranch have been under way since 2004, when Prescott and Prescott Valley teamed up to buy the ranchland northwest of Paulden, with plans to pump and transport thousands of acre-feet of water through a 30-mile pipeline to the tri-city area.

SRP, which claims senior downstream rights to Verde River water, had long maintained that the large-scale pumping in the Big Chino, which is near the headwaters of the Verde, could harm the flow of the river.

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