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County pursues Bisbee effluent for recharge project

BISBEE — For some time, Cochise County has considered Bisbee’s effluent as a possible source for recharge to help sustain the San Pedro aquifer and benefit the river.

Now, if all goes well and Bisbee’s city council agrees, some 200–acre feet of treated effluent from Bisbee may flow west to support a proposed large-scale recharge project.

During a special meeting Tuesday, county supervisors Peggy Judd, Ann English and Tom Borer unanimously approved pursuing an agreement with the city to purchase the effluent and secure the water source.

The city discharges around 360 acre-feet of treated effluent, rated B-plus, from the San Jose Wastewater Treatment facility each year into Greenbush Draw, southwest of the city, said County Administrator Ed Gilligan. It is enough for the city to pledge a minimum of 200 acre-feet for use in the Bisbee Effluent Project (BEP), ensuring the beneficial use of a renewable water resource for watershed enhancement purposes.

He explained the agreement is an option to purchase only and does not obligate the county to buy or use the effluent, nor complete the proposed BEP recharge project. It just secures a water source needed to move forward. A study indicates the BEP will require a minimum of 200 acre-feet of water annually to accomplish its intended purpose.

Representatives of the city and county met and discussed the terms of a five-year agreement in which the county would pay $35,000 to Bisbee for an effluent purchase option, continued Gilligan. If the effluent is used, the county would pay $60 per acre-foot, or $12,000 annually.

“We anticipate The Nature Conservancy, though not a party to this agreement, will support the purchase option by contributing $10,000, making the county’s cost $25,000,” he added. “The option terminates if construction on the underlying BEP does not commence within five years from the effective date. The project could be funded through a third-party source, through the Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network. Nothing would kick in unless we have a third-party funding source.”

The purchase option gives the county time to work with other partners and funding sources to evaluate economically feasible designs for the proposed BEP with the confidence that a water source is readily available while the other pieces of the complex project are put into place, said Deputy County Attorney Sarah Ransom.

“Entering this agreement is an important first step in moving forward with the Bisbee Effluent Project, which promotes water conservation and security in the county and is consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan,” she said.

Gilligan noted, “It also creates a revenue source for Bisbee which is right now a non-revenue generating byproduct.”

English said, “It shows we’re trying to do our part to save the river.”

Gilligan pointed out the project would have a positive impact, not just on the river in San Pedro Valley, but could benefit other parts of the county in the Sulfur Springs Valley’s communities of Elfrida and Willcox. The county’s recharge projects have generated state and southwestern U.S. interest.

Bisbee Mayor David Smith was at the meeting and can now take the matter to the city council for discussion and, the supervisors hope, approval.

Hereford residents grapple with graffiti

HEREFORD — Hereford resident Ed Garcia was in Tucson this Tuesday when he received a call from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department. The wall surrounding the Linda Vista subdivision, of which he is the developer, had been graffitied sometime Monday or Tuesday.

“It is a criminal matter and something that hopefully the county will be able to pursue and investigate, which they are doing by the way,” Garcia said. “Hopefully, we can find who these individuals are because its very destructive and criminal.”

“There’s no reason for it, and no excuse for that matter.”

Spatterings of curse words, crude drawings and what appear to possibly be tags can still be seen on several spots along the wall, the subdivision marques, a wall across the street and on a building that is currently for sale next to the subdivision.

While Garcia said instances of graffiti in the area have been rare, he is the one responsible for cleaning the walls of the subdivision.

“It’s not very often that this has happened over the years and we have taken care of it immediately,” he said. “This is probably the worse case of tagging, vandalism that I’ve seen.”

John Johnson is a co-owner of the building for sale next to the subdivision. He said it had just been remodeled and is set up for an office type business.

He first learned about the graffiti on the building through someone in the neighborhood.

“I ran into a guy here who says ‘you see the graffiti out there on Hereford Road?’ I said no and he said ‘well, you got tagged,’” Johnson said. “The sheriff’s department called Ed and he said they had no idea who has been doing this.”

“But they will find them.”

The building has graffiti on both the front and the side wall, where the bulk of the vandalism is.

Johnson said the whole side wall would probably need to be repainted.

Both Johnson and Garcia said the sheriff’s department has been responsive to the situation, and said they are cooperating with them to try and find the culprit.

As far as they know, there are no leads yet into who is responsible.

Graffiti is a criminal offense and while local law enforcement agencies work to investigate and arrest the person responsible, they do not assist in the actual clean up.

The Cochise County Sheriff’s Department didn’t return requests for comment on specifics of the graffitti in Linda Vista by Wednesday afternoon, but county community development director Dan Coxworth spoke to the low incidence of this type of crime in the county.

“Lately, it hasn’t been a big problem, but it’s always best to get it taken care of as soon as possible,” he said. “It usually starts up in the summertime when kids are out of school.”

Sierra Vista Police Sgt. Brian Sebastian explained that it can be challenging to catch the person responsible for graffiti, as it is often an unwitnessed offense.

“There is always the potential to identify a suspect, and in my tenure I caught someone red handed (graffiting) in the middle of the night who was caught, arrested and charged,” he said. “It goes through a process of connecting different incidents — the paint used may indicate that.”

The city does provide some graffiti abatement services on “city property, or private property that faces city infrastructure,” according to their website.

“As a resident who has been victimized by graffiti, the city will provide labor and materials to paint over it so it doesn’t stand,” Sebastian said. “We call it the ‘broken window’ effect in policing — once it’s there, it invites more graffiti — so we tell property owners to try to get it cleaned up as much as possible.”

Like in the county, graffiti in the city has not been highly prolific in the area recently, though it does occur, Sebastian said.

“It’s an ebb and flow — the tide goes in and out,” he said. “Historically, we’ve seen it in sprees. It’s often been a single offender going out nightly and tagging all over his or her area.”

Both the county and city encourage that residents do report graffiti so that work can be done to arrest those responsible.

Garcia is hopeful the culprit of the current spate of graffiti will be caught.

Hopefully we will find who they are because they need to be prosecuted,” he said. “If they are adults they can be prosecuted through the adult court and if their juvenile they can be prosecuted through the juvenile courts and their parents will be responsible.”

Animal experts remind pet owners that prevention is the best cure when it comes to keeping four-legged friends safe and healthy through the warm summer months.