$6M water infrastructure bill passes first hurdle at AZ Senate

Bob Hembree
Posted 2/21/24

Page’s state water infrastructure bill is back in play.

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$6M water infrastructure bill passes first hurdle at AZ Senate


Page’s state water infrastructure bill is back in play. Arizona Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee Action voted 6-0 to push forward with Senate Bill 1520 (SB1520).  Four Republicans and two Democrats worked and voted together to approve the $6 million bill sponsored by Senator Theresa Hatathlie [D] and cosponsored by Senator Catherine Miranda [D].

If the bill passes as currently written, Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA) will award the City of Page funds for tunnel boring. The anticipated location is on the lake side of the dam at The Chains based on a 2004 Department of Interior, Bureau of Reclamation study. In 2023, the estimate for the complete infrastructure project was nearly $42 million.

Senator Hatathlie’s original 2023 bill for the Page project was SB4169 and was for $41,916,000, the full cost of the project. After it passed the Senate, it became SB1169 for $23,000,000. Although SB1169 passed both the chambers, and the appropriations committee for the 2024 state budget, it never made it to Governor Katie Hobbs’ desk.

While $6 million only covers a fraction of the total ‘second straw’ cost, it does give the city an advantage when going after other federal and state funding sources. The city may need to piece together a series of smaller grants and do the project in phases.

Tourism in Page contributes a significant amount to the state, so an aging water infrastructure not only affects Page, it affects the state. Mayor Bill Diak told the Chronicle last year after his trip to the governor’s office, “Page actually hits above its weight when it comes to sales tax revenue to the state, because we're only a community of 7, 500. But with our tourism market, we contribute to the state coffers annually, about $25 million every year, and that's directly to the state. We get some sales tax off that, and the county gets some sales tax off that. But that's what actually goes to the state. The biggest portion of that, of all of our taxes, goes to the state coffers. 25 million is more like a community of about 80,000 that doesn't have that tourism base that we do. So that's why ours is high. So, it's significant.

 “And then we pointed out that this is not only an important project for the community of Page to thrive and continue to be able to support the state coffers with its tourism, but also, it's very important to Arizona moving forward, because one of the things is that Arizona has no access to upper basin water. Page has access to that water, but Arizona doesn't.

“And our access, the way it is designed at this time, couldn't give Arizona water. Senator Kyle's project that actually started this pipeline concern many years ago indicates that by 2050, northern Arizona will not necessarily be able to rely on just groundwater for its needs. The growth will outdo the availability of groundwater because of our terrain. So, we're talking about water not just for Page, but down the road into the future. This would give them access to take water down to, say, Flagstaff, Cameron, south rim of the Grand Canyon, Williams, and other communities in the northern Arizona region. And that access would allow the state to have the ability to get 50,000 acre-feet of water that they have allocated, but they have no way of getting it, no way of delivering it to themselves. So, we pointed that out. That was part of the bigger study.

“When we pointed that out to the governor's office, it was something that they were totally unaware of. We gave them the documentation that shows that project. It shows that need and actually shows the engineering and where that pipeline would go beyond Page and to the south and then east or west.”