PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs said she is considering whether changes to state law would give her the power to decide who can lease state land and what activities can be conducted there.
In an extensive interview after Congress adjourned on Monday, Hobbes said the law generally ensures that state trust lands get the “best and best use” and are managed to maximize benefits to the state and trust beneficiaries. admitted that he was obliged to public education.
This requirement allowed Fondmonte to lease more than 6,000 acres of land and pump the water underneath to grow alfalfa in western Arizona to feed the Saudi dairy cows. The country has banned such farming because of water use.
produced by lease national publicity And called on Arizona officials to stop it.
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Hobbes said the problem is neither so simple nor so individual.
“Fondomonte is a place where people pay attention,” she says, but points out that the company is not the only company growing crops on state-owned land.
Hobbes said that canceling one lease “treats one lessee differently than another leaseholder.”
I also have another question. How can the state refuse to lease land to grow alfalfa for export when it also leases land for other crops such as vegetables shipped to Arizona and possibly out of the country?
“That’s a really valid question,” the Democratic governor said.
In April, the state was able to revoke two well-drilling permits issued to Fondomote last year.
But it was based on the technicality that the company’s approval to improve state land had expired. It does not prevent Fondmonte from continuing to draw water from existing wells.
A related issue is that some of this farming, including Fondmonte, occurs on private land, and gaps in state law limit the ability of owners to limit the amount of groundwater they pump. All of this adds to the complexity of the questions raised, Hobbes said.
“When you look at the decline in agriculture in the Yuma area, it’s a huge food security issue for Arizonas and many Americans, especially during winter,” she said. winter vegetables.
Even alfalfa could be considered part of “food security,” Hobbes conceded.
“We raise a lot of cows here,” she said.
Another issue is whether there is enough water to keep up with the growing population.
The problem has been addressed to some extent in urban “positive management areas” where developers are required to demonstrate reliable access to water supplies for 100 years, but the state has failed to meet that goal in parts of Maricopa County. The area does not issue building permits.
However, in rural areas there are generally no regulations. Hobbes said there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution.
“I don’t think the restrictions in force in Mojave County, for example, are the same restrictions in force in Cochise, and there has to be a local dimension to it,” she said.
Earlier this year, the situation unfolded when voters in Cochise County agreed to establish an active management area and state regulation of groundwater use in the Douglas Basin. Similar plans were rejected by the residents of the Wilcox Basin.
Howard Fisher is a veteran journalist who has been reporting since 1970 and covering state politics and legislatures since 1982. Follow him on Twitter (@azcapmedia) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.