Page water infrastructure funds not included in 2024 state budget

Water storage tanks in Page.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs signed a $17 billion budget for 2024 last week. Funds for Page’s water infrastructure – $23 million – were not in the state’s budget despite strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. It’s not clear at this time why SB1169, the approved appropriation bill, was missing from the final budget. 

The bill went through several odd legislative twists and turns. Senator Theresa Hatathlie’s original bill for the Page project was SB4169 and was for $41.916 million, the full cost of the project. 

After it passed the Senate, it became SB1169 for $23 million. Here’s the oddity: SB1169 was originally a bill to fund the Clarkdale Bridge sponsored by a senator from another district, but a type of amendment known as “strike everything” was used to shift it toward funding Page’s water infrastructure project. 

“Strike everything” amendments are described in “From Idea to Bill to Law: The Legislative Process in Arizona” by State Senator Randall Gnant:

“The ‘strike everything’ amendment is unique, and barely qualifies to be called an amendment. It is, more properly, a complete replacement. In a ‘strike everything’ amendment, everything after the words ‘Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona’ is struck out, or removed, and is replaced by entirely different language. When an amendment of this type passes, the original bill and all amendments associated with it are gone. A ‘strike everything’ is one of the most common ways to resurrect a bill that has previously ‘died’. Towards the end of session [it] sometimes seems as if every other bill is a ‘strike everything’. ‘Strikers’ [are] also a way to deal with an issue which arises after the deadline for the filing of new bills. In the Senate all ‘strike everything amendments’ to existing bills must be scheduled by filing a notice in the Secretary of the Senate’s Office by 5:00 pm two days in advance and must be heard by a standing committee at a public hearing. Needless to say, because this type of amendment destroys the original bill, a ‘strike everything’ is rarely used without permission of the original bill’s sponsor.” 

City of Page Mayor Bill Diak announced the news about the missing funding at the May 10 Page City Council meeting.

“The budget passed this morning at 4:43 a.m. It was a long night for our legislators,” Diak said. “I just wanted to let everybody know that it did not include money for our water infrastructure project.” 

Diak said the city will continue to work with state and federal governments, as well as the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority, for funds.

Earlier on May 10, the council met with the Page Utility Enterprises (PUE) Board to vote on PUE’s 2023-24 budget. During discussions, Councilor Mike Farrow asked, “How do we get water if the main straw has a problem?” 

“That’s awkward. That’s a really awkward question,” PUE manager Bryan Hill said. “I don't have an answer for you. That’s why we're trying to hunt the second straw. That's why the bureau wrote that thing back in 2004.” He was referring to a 339-page U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study conducted in 2004 that recommended a second water pipeline to Page.

The aging pipeline Page currently uses is troubling; some components are 75 years old and can’t be replaced without jeopardizing the integrity of Glen Canyon Dam.

Hill explained what steps are taken in a water pipeline emergency.

“Right away, we go into emergency,” he said. “Nobody gets to irrigate. Everything’s for water. We’re going to be working with the bureau closely, [and] our plumbers. We might even ask the mayor to declare an emergency and get county help. The problem is, a lot of it isn’t even accessible.” 

Hill is more concerned with the unpredictable downtime than money needed for repairs. Emergency funds are available. From the base of the dam, the 18-inch water pipe goes approximately 2 miles underground up Tunnel Road. According to the 2004 reclamation study, the cement mortar-line, concrete-encased steel pipe replaced the original 12-inch pipe between 1980 and 1982. The current pipe is over 40 years old. The aging water delivery system is spread over a lot of territory. 

At the May 10 meeting, Diak mentioned using water trucks as part of an emergency response. When the Chronicle spoke to the mayor on May 11, he estimated that Page has enough stored water to last five to seven days with conservation measures. This buys time for repairs and/or making arrangements to purchase water and delivery.

The Page water system’s weakest link is relying on a single, aging waterline with no redundancy, no second straw. Diak and city staff will push forward to get all or some of the funds that were slated to for the 2024 state budget.

“It was truly, honestly supposed to have been there,” Diak said. “Otherwise, we would not have made a special trip down to the governor’s office and had that conversation. We were trying to leverage ourselves with making sure that the education process was done with [Hobbs] and her staff for the budget to come forward. It was approved in the Senate, and it was approved in the House – and then it has to be listed in the budget, and it was gone.”

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