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A large recharge project to pipe some of Bisbee’s treated wastewater over public and private land to a critical point near the San Pedro River is moving forward.

BISBEE — The city is back on track to follow through on the option to sell a portion of its treated effluent to Cochise County, if the Board of Supervisors approve the contract changes.

Attorney Ann Roberts, who was hired to review the contract, looked over the county agreement and split it out into two separate contracts.

The first is the five-year option to sell 200 acre-feet of treated effluent to the county for which the county will pay the city $35,000, said Mayor David Smith during Tuesday’s meeting. He explained the option was necessary to allow the county time to find funding for a large recharge project to pipe the wastewater over public and private land to a critical point near the San Pedro River.

The second agreement would be finalized when the county finds the funding, builds the pipeline and needs to purchase the effluent, Roberts said.

“When the county gets its funding and the parties come back to the table, you can discuss the price,” Roberts added. “We are guaranteeing the effluent would be available to the county for 25 years. There’s a caveat in which the city and county can negotiate the price per acre foot every five years.”

Resident Cado Daily said, “We’re being asked to contribute to the effort to help the river and that’s a good thing. If we don’t, the river, the canopy and the wildlife will die. If part of the riparian area starts to decline, it takes a long time to recover.”

The proposed county project is targeted to a point in the river at the border with Mexico, a reach which has steadily declined due to drought, climate change and Mexico’s use of water from agriculture and mining, Daily noted.

When a vote to approve the option contract was called, those in favor were Council members Bill Higgins, Joan Hansen, Anna Cline and Smith. Council members Louis Pawlik and Joni Giacomino voted against it.

Pawlik said he did not have enough information about the project to make an informed decision.

Giacomino thought the council would have to approve an ordinance since the wastewater plant is a utility according to the city charter and any expansion would require the council action.

Cline commented she felt more comfortable with the option contract prior to her vote of approval.

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