State Capitol News
Tue June 5, 2012
Tombstone Strikes Out Again
Tombstone struck out again today in its bid to get the U.S. Supreme Court to intercede in its fight with the Forest Service.
The city has been getting much of its water from springs in the Huachuca Mountains since territorial days. But mudslides following last year's Monument Fire resulted in Volkswagen-size boulders crushing the pipes and burying the springs that feed them. So far the Forest Service has refused to grant the necessary permits for repairs, based in part on questions of damage from heavy equipment -- and in part on whether Tombstone has the right to the water. When a trial judge refused to allow the city to start work, attorney Nick Dranias went to the high court saying the city faced a possible emergency water shortage if there is a fire. But now two different justices have rejected his request they intervene. Dranias now has to proceed through the regular appellate process. He said the issue is more important than just what is happening to Tombstone.
"The viability of Arizona and other water-poor states is really at risk here when the federal government can just seize control of long-established water rights during a state of emergency," Dranias said. "And the precedent that that sets, if they can get away with it, threatens everyone who has any sort of water rights in this area which, of course, is the foundation of our economy and the whole reason why we're out here."
It is unclear how long a regular appeal might take. The Forest Service will not comment on the court battle.