PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez released a statement today regarding the Gila River Indian Community's potential withdrawal from last month's negotiated Drought Contingency Plan. The Tribe has objected to a bill sponsored by House Speaker Rusty Bowers that threatens the GRIC's water rights. The bill would also upend more than a century of Arizona water law. Bowers' placed his House Bill 2476 on the agenda for Tuesday's House Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, which prompted GRIC Governor Stephen Roe Lewis on to announce on Thursday that his community could not play its vital role in the DCP if the legislation advances.
"It is absolutely unfathomable that the Speaker would go out of his way to provoke one of our most vital partners in a delicately negotiated Drought Contingency Plan and threaten to undermine Gila River Indian Community water rights that were settled over 15 years ago. Governor Lewis was crystal clear that undermining the Community's water rights in another region would negate its ability to participate in the DCP. I don’t know what the Speaker hopes to accomplish with this. But if it's federal control of our drought contingency measures and the destruction of our Central Arizona agriculture economy, it looks like he's on the verge of getting it."