Government Goings-On — February 2015

Every January a flurry of activity seems to characterize all levels of government.  Like clockwork, many things are happening early in 2015.

Governor Ducey has nominated Tom Buschatzke to be the new Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.  Tom has been Assistant Director since 2011, and had an earlier supervisory stint at ADWR when Adjudications was still an active program.  For several years he served as Water Resources Manager to the City of Phoenix.  Tom is very familiar with a variety of water concerns, particularly the developing Colorado River issues, and will likely be one of the most dynamic leaders ADWR has seen in many years.  Over at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Henry Darwin will stay on as Director.  But Mike Fulton, Assistant Director for Water Quality and a long-time AHS member who served several years on the Corporate Board, will be moving on.  A new Commissioner for the Arizona State Land Department will be needed, as apparently considerable turnover has occurred in the top levels of management at that agency.

Governor Ducey’s budget for FY 2016 keeps ADWR General Fund appropriations at about $13.3 million, same as FY 2015.  An extra $488,300 is to be shifted over from the Water Bank to allow hiring of more hydrologists and water resources specialists.  The much larger ADEQ budget appears to stay much the same in terms of various appropriated funds, of which ADEQ has far more than ADWR.  Some shifts between programs and funds are envisioned, but overall no major cuts look likely.  So far both agencies appear financially much the same as in the previous fiscal year, but the Legislature has yet to chew on the governor’s budget.  Maybe not much will be changed—the relationship between the governor and legislative leaders is starting out much better than with the last governor.

At the Legislature, over 700 bills have already been dropped.  Rumor has it that legislators are waiting until the Superbowl is over and all the media have left town before introducing the really crazy bills.  How uncharacteristically thoughtful of them.  We will look at water-related proposals next month, but hopefully the list will be mercifully short.

On the Federal level, Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona introduced a bill to halt the current rule-making efforts of EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers with respect to waters of the United States (WOTUS).  Within hours he had picked up over 100 co-sponsors for the anti-WOTUS legislation.  While it would seem more logical for Congress to clarify the underlying statute instead of tinkering with a proposed rule, Congress can do what it wants—and opening up the Clean Water Act might not be any less controversial.  It appears that Congress is very willing to render the new WOTUS rule unlikely to take effect, but then there is that pesky Presidential veto thing.  This controversy is likely to stay hot throughout 2015.

Alan Dulaney

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