Friday, June 14, 2002

Ruth Valecia of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, second from right, shows visitors to the EC Bar Ranch practices being implemented along Nutrioso Creek.

Larisa Bogardus
The Independent

NUTRIOSO - What better time than a drought to celebrate just how important water is to Arizona?

Oct. 18, 2002 will mark the 30th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act and Governor Jane Dee Hull joined the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in a "Year of Clean Water Celebration" June 7 at the EC Bar Ranch in Nutrioso.

"I've often said water is the gold of Arizona and with this drought going on it's more and more valuable every day," Hull told a crowd of about 75 state and local officials, representatives of various environmental agencies and entities, and interested individuals. "Obviously clean drinking water is something we all need."

The owner of a Pinetop cabin, Hull encouraged residents of the White Mountains to help tourists "understand the very, very delicate balance between nature and the environment."

While Hull has been criticized for her environmental policies, she has been a friend to ADEQ, agency director Jacqueline Schafer said.

Most recently, Hull ensured that the Water Quality Assurance Revolving Fund was not wiped out in recent budget cuts; saw to it that $3 million was earmarked to match federal grants toward construction of water and waste-water treatment plants, which has funded projects in St. Johns and Alpine; and saw to it that Tucson Electric Power obtained an expansion permit for its Springerville Generating Station, which will reduce overall emissions by more than half.

EC Bar Ranch owner Jim Crosswhite hosted the event, which included tours of the property and a series of presentations at various stations demonstrating improvements he has made over the past six years.

Shortly after Crosswhite purchased the ranch in 1996, four miles of Nutrioso Creek were declared an impaired waterway, 2.5 of which traversed his land.

With more than $400,000 in ADEQ water quality improvement grants and an matching investment by Crosswhite in cash and in kind, the ranch is now a model of conservation practices.

"I can't believe the difference, I'm delighted when I look at what we've got here today," said Karen Smith, director of ADEQ's Water Quality Division. "It's the commitment of individuals (like Crosswhite) ... that makes all this possible in Arizona."

 Although ranchers often are reluctant to invest in conservation, Crosswhite said it makes economic sense in the long term.

 number of livestock, you increase the 'Production of the property and you increase its value:'

Cattle and elk had broken down the creek's meanders, leading to the severe eroding of the streambanks and vastly increasing the turbidity of the water. After installing alternate watering sources for cattle, Crosswhite was able to fence off the creek and reestablish riparian vegetation, reducing turbidity at the same time.

"A lot of ranchers would say, `Why do I want to do that?"' Crosswhite said. "But if a species becomes endangered, you could lose your water rights and there's potential litigation by environmental groups. My philosophy is do the practices, which help the fish, which helps me:"

Simply lining earthen irrigation ditches saves about 100 million gallons of water per year in evaporation and leakage, and a sprinkler system is far more efficient that the previous flood irrigation method.

"You don't give up your water rights, you're just more efficient," Crosswhite said.

To learn more about Crosswhite's conservation techniques, visit www.ecbarranch.com or email jim@ecbarranch.com.

Later this year, ADEQ will continue the celebration with an "Audubon e Ranch Clean Water Fest" to be held P Sept. 7 at the Appleton-Whittell Ranch in Elgin.

"The Big Dip In: National Water Monitoring Day" will be observed Oct. 18 with activities in various communities throughout the state.

To get involved, contact Kris Randall at 1-800-234-5677, ext. 4509.

or e-mail krl@ev.state.az.us, or visit www.adeq.state.az.us.