The Friends of the San Pedro River (FSPR), founded in 1987, is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of the river through advocacy, education, and interpretation. Realizing we are in a time when major changes are occurring in our area, e.g. border wall construction, groundwater overdraft, and further development of housing and agriculture, FSPR wanted to gauge the stance of candidates for offices and inform interested voters in Cochise County.

In lieu of a public forum during the pandemic, FSPR opted to create a questionnaire for candidates. The questionnaire was sent to ten candidates, for both federal and state level offices. Three responses were received. Highlights of those responses are recorded below. Full text responses as well as the original letter to candidates can be found at this website:

Question 1

How do you envision the upper San Pedro River (from the border to St. David) ten years from now? This entails recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, scenic landscapes, and natural and cultural resource protection.

Bob Karp State Senate District 14: I am not an expert of how the river should be maintained. I am opposed to allowing cattle grazing along the river. I am also opposed to allowing BLM to put additional roads near the river. I would like to see the river maintained as free flowing as a light use recreational area. How that would happen is out of the scope of my knowledge.

Ronnie Maestas-Condos State Representative District 14: My view of the San Pedro River 10 years from now will be a desert wasteland if we do not continue to ensure the protections that have been established remain in place. We need to further codify these protections locally to reinforce federal regulations and policy, giving us more leverage and control over these protections.

Kim Beach-Moschetti State Representative District 14: If groundwater pumping continues at the present rate and the structure being built on the riverbed moves forward, as well as the dismantling of Environmental Protection Laws, I foresee a barren landscape with little wildlife and the loss of an irreplaceable national treasure.

Question 2

What measures do you favor to avoid aquifer depletion that otherwise would degrade the river’s surface flow and the wildlife habitat that relies on that flow and underlying groundwater?

Karp: Some ideas I support:

• Require large commercial wells throughout the state to have meters installed to monitor water use.

• Allow rural areas that counties declare as threatened to opt in to metering wells in groundwater basins.

• Expand existing rules to require developers of subdivisions to certify an adequate 100-year water supply to cover all areas of the state

• Change rules for creating INA (irrigation no-expansion areas) to make it easier to limit well drilling

Maestas-Condos: I would like to see more coordination between the various counties to create regulating and monitoring policies with enforcement powers including the necessary funding required. I feel these measures would go a long way in helping us mitigate the effects of severe weather events and hopefully help sustain the health and viability of our San Pedro for future generations.

Beach-Moschetti: I believe it is the responsibility of state and local elected officials, as caretakers of the San Pedro Area, to propose and pass legislation that will properly regulate and measure the pumping of groundwater across the state, and limit the industrial and agricultural use of this finite resource.

Question 3

There is widespread concern that the border wall project has been conducted with inadequate public engagement, analysis of alternatives, and environmental impact assessment. Moreover, there are concerns that it will disrupt wildlife corridors and dispersal of large fauna including jaguars, ocelots, puma, bears, and deer. Will you speak out for greater Congressional oversight, public input, transparency, and accountability on the part of the federal government before it embarks on such projects?

Karp: As local representatives we must lobby our state congressional delegation to be more proactive in oversight of DHS and Army Corps of Engineers as well as oppose exemptions to environmental protection laws to uphold the right of property owners to contest eminent domain seizures of private property along the border.

Maestas-Condos: I will draw attention to the fact that the US government is violating laws and regulations designed to protect this national monument. This project went forward without adequate public engagement, analysis of environmental impacts or consideration of effective alternatives.

Beach-Moschetti: I will absolutely be an opposing voice to the border wall project, as well as any similar projects that would adversely affect the fragile habitats of the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area.

Linda Stitt is a retired teacher who, after twenty-plus years of visiting this area, finally moved here in 2015 to enjoy the multitude of birding and nature activities available. She is currently on the board of FSPR and does a variety of volunteer activities. She can be reached at 214-5177.