Pipeline repairs puts Tombstone water war on hold

Jun 13, 2012, 7:02 AM | Updated: 7:05 am

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Forest Service has issued special permits for the City of Tombstone to fix sections of its water line system, which was heavily damaged in last year’s wildfires.

The permits, issued Thursday, allow the volunteer Tombstone Shovel Brigade to go in to the Miller Peak Wilderness Area and use shovels, saws and other hand tools until 8 p.m. Saturday to work on as many as two of the springs that feed the water lines.

Tombstone City Manager George Barnes said it’s not a lot of time, but without the repairs one of the springs has a 90 percent chance of being washed away during the approaching monsoon season. The spring is currently patched with PVC piping and sandbags.

“If we can protect this water line with what we’ve got, then that’s wonderful,” Barnes said of the weekend’s repairs.

The repairs mark a temporary reprieve in the water war between the city and the Forest Service, and they come as a House committee heard testimony on a bill Friday that would prohibit federal agencies from blocking emergency water repairs.

The city has been asking for permission for months to take heavy equipment on federal lands where the springs are located so they could fix the lines, which were damaged in the rains after last year’s wildfires.

The government has approved some work but has been balking at other proposals over the scope of the work, saying the law required it to get more detail from the city before it could allow work to proceed. The dispute led to a lawsuit by the city and congressional proposals to allow the city to proceed.

Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch said Friday that the Forest Service is willing to work with the city as it continues to make repairs on the water line.

“We’re really happy with the relationship with the city and we think there’s some positive things going forward,” Upchurch said. “We’ll continue to work with them if they need additional maintenance needs that require permits.”

Barnes said shovel brigade workers face a “hard, two-mile hike” to reach Gardner Spring, with temperatures expected to approach 100 degrees this weekend. He said the group plans on reinforcing the spring and diverting its flow using boulders, sand, downed trees and flood debris.

As of Friday morning, nearly 100 volunteers had shown up to help with preliminary work and Barnes said organizers expect as many as 200 people to head out with shovels and hand tools on Saturday.

In Washington, meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Mesa, testified Friday that his “Emergency Water Supply Restoration Act” would help not only Tombstone, but also other communities who experience similar situations in the future.

“We should be able to get the water source to where it was before, and that that trumps everything else,” he said in testimony to a House Natural Resources subcommittee. “The health and safety of the citizens is paramount.”

But Paul J. Spitler, director of wilderness policy for the Wilderness Society, testified that the bill would, in effect, be “jeopardizing the health and safety of downstream water users, and undermining water law throughout the United States.”

He said in remarks prepared for the committee that the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Wilderness Act and “dozens of other laws that protect Americans’ health and safety or natural environment” would not be enforceable during states of emergency if the bill came into action.

Gov. Jan Brewer declared a state of emergency in Tombstone in August because of the water-supply problems.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook photo/City of Phoenix, AZ USA)...

Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from Nov. 26-28

Phoenix on Sunday having its first sub-50 degree low since March is among the biggest Arizona stories of the weekend.
1 day ago
(Pexels Photo)...

Phoenix temperature hits sub-50 for the first time since spring

Turn the heater on and get those fuzzy socks out-- Winter is approaching as some Valley residents saw some chilly temperatures Sunday morning.
1 day ago
(Facebook File Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

Phoenix police investigating death of woman following single-vehicle car crash

Phoenix police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman following a single-vehicle car accident early Sunday, authorities said.
1 day ago
Syringes with the vaccine Comirnaty of Pfizer against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease stan...

Arizona reports 2,274 new COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths on Sunday

Arizona health officials on Sunday reported 2,274 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths.
1 day ago
The 34th annual APS Electric Light Parade returns Saturday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. (APS Electric Light Pa...

Electric Light Parade returns to central Phoenix on Saturday

The central Phoenix night will be lit up with holiday colors Saturday during the annual APS Electric Light Parade.
1 day ago
(Over Easy Photo)...

Tired of turkey? Here are some Valley spots for National French Toast Day

Tired of turkey? Besides being Thanksgiving, Thursday is also National French Toast Day. Here are some Valley spots that offer the breakfast delight.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


How your family can explore the Musical Instrument Museum

Whether you want to spend a day with family, do crafts with kids at home, or have an adult night out, the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix has options. As the world’s only global musical instrument museum, MIM offers interactive and immersive exhibits to foster an appreciation of different cultures and their instruments. “A visit […]

What you need to know about spine health

With 540 million people suffering from lower back pain, it remains the leading cause of long-term disability. That’s why World Spine Day on Oct. 16 will raise awareness about spinal health with its theme, BACK2BACK. “BACK2BACK will focus on highlighting ways in which people can help their spines by staying mobile, avoiding physical inactivity, not overloading […]
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Why fall maintenance is important for your heating system and A/C

It’s easy to ignore your heater and air conditioner when they’re working but the moment something breaks, you will likely regret not keeping up with maintenance. After all, if something goes wrong, you may be stuck with a repair that will take longer and be more expensive than simple maintenance.
Pipeline repairs puts Tombstone water war on hold