Ducey’s water grab threatens the bulk of desert ecology

Thanks to

Blake Morlock


I was walking the land that is now the La Encantada mall with one of the developers on a rainy day in March 2001. Mitch Stollard – a central casting Texan, which confused me because he was from Sierra Vista – pointed to a ripple of water sheeting over sand between ocotillos and sniffed “that would be one of them there navigable waterways, according to the folks at the Eee Pea Ayyy (Texan embellishment added).”

He was joking, I would have to gather. Rather, he was exaggerating to prove a point that I had heard before. It reminded me of the “trout study” required of the Rio de Flag snaking through downtown Flagstaff down to the Northern Arizona University campus. The Rio de Flag was in constant danger of flooding because it was a ditch that occasionally drained water. But it was in no danger of drawing the interest of anglers.

I point this out because Gov. Doug Ducey’s effort to get control of Arizona’s waterways isn’t completely nuts. Our desert reality is different from the Appalachian ecology of Pennsylvania or Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Our rivers and streams aren’t rivers and streams in the traditional sense because this isn’t Ohio.

Arizona’s watersheds don’t look like the water courses of other states, but that doesn’t mean they deserve any less protection. They may need more, albeit different, safeguarding.

Specifically, Ducey wants control over which waterways get protection and which don’t. It would make sense that a governor seeking a more realistic environmental policy that wouldn’t require trophy fish studies in ditches or have to prove you can’t paddle a steamship from Swan Road to First Avenue.

Tony Davis, the Rain Man of western environmental journalism,…

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