The Real David and Goliath in the Tombstone H2O War

The major wars of the future will be fought over the earth’s most valuable resource, not gold or oil, but water. A microcosm of a future water war is happening today (without all the bombs and bullets) as evidenced by a recent lawsuit filed by the City of Tombstone (COT). Tombstone, which calls itself, “the town too tough to die”, is pretending to be like the little shepherd David who bravely went up against the giant Goliath with just a stone and slingshot. Unlike David, Tombstone brought its own giant to fight for them.

The illustrious Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represents the COT against the Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service. According to the Goldwater Institute’s website, they chose to represent Tombstone, at no cost, “because the 10th Amendment protects states and their subdivisions from federal regulations that prevent them from using and enjoying their property in order to fulfill the essential functions of protecting public health and safety.”

COT is claiming that the US Forest Service is refusing to allow them access to repair its property, which includes a badly leaking 130 year-old gravity fed water line in the Huachuca mountains.  In reality, small sections of the nearly 30 mile pipeline were severely damaged in the flooding that occurred after the horrific forest fire which devastated the area in the summer of 2011. The entire pipeline has suffered from leaks since it was built. The US Forest Service is trying to rein COT in and allow them access only to what has already been designated as their original springs.

The romantic Wild West attitude that created Tombstone has turned into an ugly harlot, all tarted up to look pretty, but underneath lives a hag with malicious intent. COT, with the help of the Goldwater Institute now are laying claim to all the springs in the Huachuca mountains. According to a 1901 map, that’s about 25 springs in all. COT also claims the land to include 5 acres around each spring and within 25 feet either side of its pipeline.  These easements do not exist on any property deeds. COT has never owned the land they are claiming, have never used those springs, cannot identify the springs actual location and have never paid taxes on any of the property it claims it owns.  Most of the land is wilderness and under the protection of the US Forest Service. The land which butts up to the wilderness area is deeded private property.

Who is the little guy or the real David in this fight? Its people like the Beattys, who own Beatty’s Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon and the Snapps in Carr Canyon. Both families are located in the Huachuca mountains whose land is being threatened by Tombstones initiative.

The Beattys have owned their property and their only spring for many years and have the documents to prove it. No easements exist on the Beatty or Snapps property deeds, giving COT rights over their land. Up till recently, the Beattys have gone out of their way to help COT save its pipeline. They have been accommodating when COTs crew of unskilled workers showed up to do repairs. The leader of the group is Kevin Rudd, a drifter who was able to convince COT that he was an expert in making the necessary repairs to the pipeline.  Rudd has no engineering experience and is basically a cowboy leading his gang of untrained laborers riding roughshod through the Beatty’s property, taking out healthy apple trees and devastating the Beatty’s land.  COT hired Rudd as a temporary employee with the title of Huachuca Mountain Water Project Manager. He led a four man crew, which included with the Mayor of Tombstone’s son, Justin Henderson, a drug addict and convicted felon, into the wilderness and onto Beattys land. Rudd put Henderson into the drivers seat of a bulldozer. According to eyewitnesses, Henderson displayed a complete lack of professionalism and skill while operating the earth moving equipment. Henderson destroyed some of Beattys apple trees and made useless piles of rocks that will turn into an underwater avalanche when the floods come again this summer, overwhelming the land. Henderson left the bulldozer on Beattys land and was later arrested and put back in jail for probation violations for failing to pass drug tests.  Ironically, COT was advised by the Goldwater Institute to keep Rudd and his crew on the payroll due to the pending legislation in case they are needed as witnesses.

Tombstone has bullied the Beattys, sending them letters accusing them of interfering with COT property. Kevin Rudd called the sheriff when trespassing on the Beattys land and accused the Beattys of stealing COT water from the Beattys own well.  The sheriff told the Beattys they could not talk to the COT employees on their own land!

Click on the link below to see video interview with Tom Beatty, Jr.

Click on the link below to see the interview with Rosemary Snapp, Carr Canyon property owner and how Tombstones threatened actions will adversely affect her land.

Today, COT is organizing a 1,000 man shovel brigade to go into the mountains and start digging up the various springs, all of which are on protected land or private property. Leading the gang will be Kevin Rudd. The US Forest Service has group size restrictions which hopefully will be enforced on the human earth movers. One can only imagine the tremendous damage this untrained group will do to the area. The Goldwater Institute should be held financially responsible for any damage this gang of cowboys will do.

In of the catchphrase that famous TV detective Sgt. Joe Friday from the 1950’s police show Dragnet, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Here are some of the main issues as stake presented as Tombstones (COT) position versus the actual facts:

COT claims it is running out of water because the “U.S. Forest Service is refusing to allow Tombstone to repair its mountain spring water lines after forest fires, floods and torrential mudslides destroyed them in the Monument Fire of 2011.”(1)

Facts:  Not True.  Only small portions of the pipeline were destroyed in the flood. COT has, for more than a century, failed to protect the water it has underfoot. They have allowed their infrastructure in the town to decay to such an extent that they lose 40% of their water to leaks, and not just those in the pipeline. 300,000 gallons of water a day leaked out of their crumbling reservoir due entirely to lack of proper upkeep and neglect. COT now has two more springs than they had before the fire.  If they were allowed access to all 25 springs they claim they own will not even give them 10% more water.  Any additional water they get from the mountains will suffer the same wasteful fate.

COT claims that “the lack of adequate water flow from the Huachuca Mountains thus presents a monumental dilemma and fire safety hazard for the City of Tombstone.”

Facts:  COT refuses to modernize the City’s current distribution system to allow for the ability to deliver enough water to suppress a fire that could spread to multiple blocks in the historic district.

Simply stated, it’s much easier for COT to steal the San Pedro watershed, Sierra Vista’s aquifer and the residents of the Huachuca Mountains water using the big guns at the Goldwater Institute under the guise of fighting for COTs 10th Amendment rights.  COT should be forced to repair its infrastructure in the town, patch up the leaking reservoir, and hook up their arsenic filled water to sprinkler systems which should be installed in the attics of their historic buildings.

Should the Goldwater Institute win this case and COT gains access to all the springs in the Huachuca Mountains, they will have opened the floodgates for a monumental environment disaster for which Goldwater Institute should be held responsible.

The US Forestry Service should be commended for doing all they can to stop COT from stripping all the water from this already drought-ridden environment. The sustainability of the entire mountain range, also known as “sky islands” will dry up, the people on the mountains will not have access to water that is on their own land, and the animals who live there, which include mountain lions, ocelots, and rare Mexican spotted owls, to name a few, will surely die.

It would be far more sensible for the Goldwater Institute to walk away from this fiasco and tell COT to:

  1. Purify the millions of gallons of water underfoot by installing the nearly $250,000 filtration system that was located in the City of Goodyear and donated to them.
  2. Renovate and repair their current water supply system, which according to COT minutes from their Jan 10, 2012 council meeting admit, “The system which was in pretty rough shape to begin with was now completely shut down”.
  3. Focus on repairing the springs they actually do own in the Huachuca Mountains instead of claiming they own all the springs and the lands surrounding them, which are currently deeded to individual homeowners. COT has never claimed to own all these springs till now.
  4. Hire a competent Public Works director, someone with an engineering degree, to look at the pipeline and approach the repairs in such a way that will not get washed out with the next flood, as will surely happen when the rain comes later this summer.

The Goldwater Institute needs to acknowledge this is not a 10th amendment fight worthy of their immense efforts. The Institute’s backing of Tombstone makes them the real Goliath, attempting to destroy the rights of the little Davids in this fight – people like the Beattys and the Snapps in Carr Canyon, by stealing their water and enriching themselves at the expense of destroying a fragile watershed and the environment of the Huachuca Mountains.

COT would better serve their interests in the long term by utilizing and saving the millions of gallons of water they already have under their feet in the flooded mines in order to save the town from a potential disaster. Clearly this is a waste of the Goldwater Institute’s valuable time and resources. Let’s hope Goldwater realizes the true nature of what’s at stake before its too late.