ADWR's Analysis of Validity of Petition

On February 6, 2015, the Arizona Department of Water Resources (the Department) received a “Petition for Designation of Irrigation Non-Expansion Area in the San Simon Valley Sub-basin,” accompanied by lists of Cochise County assessor parcel numbers and maps of irrigated lands for petitioning entities. The Department received supplemental petition forms on March 4, 2015, March 6, 2015, and March 9, 2015. The February and March petition forms are referred to collectively as “the Petition.” The Petition and the accompanying maps and assessor information provided by the petitioners are available in the links above. 

Arizona Revised Statute (A.R.S.) § 45-433 (A)(1) provides that the designation of a subsequent irrigation non-expansion area (“INA”) may be initiated by petition to the director signed by “[n]ot less than … one-fourth of the irrigation users of groundwater within the boundaries of the groundwater basin or sub-basin specified in the petition.”

The Department has determined that there are a total of 52 “irrigation users of groundwater” within the San Simon Valley Sub-basin for purposes of A.R.S. § 45-433(A)(1)1. Of those, 16 individuals/entities (or 31% of the total) validly petitioned for the designation of an INA encompassing the San Simon Valley Sub-basin, as shown in the table below. 

Irrigation Users of Groundwater

Petitioners:

MASSEY FARMS, INC. / MASSEY ENTERPRISES, LLC

H & R FARMS, LLC

BRIAN AND GERILENE DRISCOLL

SAN SIMON ESTATE LAND COMPANY, LLC

J & P PISTACHIO, LLC

PISTA LAND COMPANY, LLC

WPD PISTACHIO, LLC

CHAPMAN FARMS, LLC

R & R ORCHARDS, LLC

FORT BOWIE RANCHES, LLC

WHITETAIL CREEK ORCHARD, LLC

FARMERS INVESTMENT COMPANY

A & P RANCH, LP

S & H FARMS, LLC

HFT PECAN ORCHARD, LLC

FOUR STAR PISTACHIO, LLC

   
Non-Petitioners:

2224 EAST PINCHOT LLC

MASSEY BILLY FRED REV TRUST

ALMQUIST FAMILY TRUST

MICHAELS MARK DANIEL

ALMQUIST JOHN A JR & LAURA T TRUST

OCEAN VIEW FARMING LLC

BARNARD JASON N & CANDICE R LIVING TRUST

OWENS HARRY

BENJAMIN FARMS LLC

OWENS HARRY V JR

BIAD CHILE SAN SIMON LLC

PARKER RANCH LLC

BILLEY MASSEY ET AL   (State Land Ag Lease)     

PATTERN FARMS LLC

COPPER HORSE VINEYARD LLC

PATZMAN JOHN F & RUTH

EAST FLANK VINEYARDS LLC

PIERCE JEANETTE REV LIV TR

EASTMAN J DICK & CODY REV TR AGREEMENT

POWER RONALD G & KAREN C   (2)

FIDELITY NATL TITLE AGY INC TR#10829

POWER RONALD G JR & TRESCIA L (2)

FIDELITY NATL TITLE AGY INC TR#10914

RIVERS EDWARD E

FINA CHARLES P

RIVERS LARRY D TRUST OF

FIRST PECAN CO

RYDER RANCH COMPANY LLC

KEIL DANIEL L & LENA M

TURLEY CHARITABLE REMAINDER TRUST

LESCO ENTERPRISES INC

TURLEY MARSHALL & ELLEN

MAHAN LS

WEBSTER RANDALL TODD & LESTI LEA

   
Additional Non-Petitioners:
FESTUS KHAN CORDOVA ACRES (MIKE LOWE)
URS ORCHARDS, LLC HNDEZ FARM, LLC
1 The determination that the individuals/entities listed are “irrigation users of groundwater” is strictly for the purpose of determining whether the Petition meets the requirements of A.R.S. § 45-433(A). Should the San Simon Valley Sub-basin be designated an INA, inclusion on this list is not a guarantee of the amount of acres for which a party will be issued an Irrigation Authority.
2 The Department recognizes that for some parcels, the landowner may not be the “irrigation user of groundwater,” such as where irrigation is carried out by virtue of an operating lease. However, this table lists the landowners of irrigated parcels to represent the “irrigation user of groundwater” associated with each respective parcel.

Because not less than one-fourth of the irrigation users of groundwater within the San Simon Valley Sub-basin have petitioned for the designation of an irrigation non-expansion area, the Department will hold a public hearing as set forth in A.R.S. § 45-435. Information regarding the hearing may be viewed here. The Department is providing the following description of its analysis of the Petition to assist the public in understanding its determination that the Petition meets the requirements of A.R.S. § 45-433(A)(1).

I.      Analysis of the Number of Irrigation Users of Groundwater

In order to determine the total number of irrigation users of groundwater in the San Simon Valley Sub-basin, the Department utilized United States Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat satellite imagery, Cochise County Assessor information (both ownership data and parcel boundaries), Arizona State Land Department agricultural lease information available on-line, imagery available on Google Earth™, and internet searches. For purposes of this analysis, the Department sought to identify individuals/entities who had irrigated within the sub-basin within the five-year period preceding the date of the receipt of the Petition. “Irrigate” is defined at A.R.S. § 45-402(18) to mean “to apply water to two or more acres of land to produce plants or parts of plants for sale or human consumption, or for use as feed for livestock, range livestock, or poultry, as such terms aredefined in section 3-1201.”   For purposes of this analysis, the Petition is considered by the Department to have been received in full on March 6, 2015, when the Department received a supplemental petition form providing an authorized signature for Chapman Farms, LLC, as described in Part II below.

Landsat satellite imagery (Path 35, Rows 37 and 38) was acquired on-line from the USGS website for the following dates: 7/11/2009; 6/12/2010, 7/6/2010 and 8/15/2010; 6/15/2011; 6/9/2012; 5/19/2013 and 6/4/2013; 6/7/2014; and 2/2/2015.  February 2, 2015 was selected as it is the date closest to the date of the submittal of the Petition for which Landsat imagery of the San Simon Valley Sub-basin was available. The other dates were selected during the peak irrigation demand season so that irrigated lands could be more readily distinguished from non-irrigated lands. Landsat images have a 30-meter resolution, so irrigated fields two or more acres in size can readily be discerned.

Prior to the Department’s analysis, the Landsat images were processed by the Department’s Geographic Information System (GIS) staff who selected spectral bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 for Landsat 5 and 7 images to emphasize vegetation in the images.  Spectral bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 were used for Landsat 8 images for the same purpose. The images were processed in ERDAS Imagine 2014 so that they could be displayed as layers within the Department’s GIS computer program (ESRI ArcGIS 10.2).  For each year of the analysis, the satellite imagery was overlaid with the shapes of Cochise County assessor parcels (acquired from Cochise County on February 10, 2015).  Department analysts then selected each parcel that appeared to be irrigated and the Cochise County Assessor ownership information (as provided by Cochise County on February 25, 2015) for that parcel was automatically placed in a data table.

For parcels whose irrigation status remained uncertain after review of Landsat imagery, the Department studied imagery available on Google Earth™ from May 20, 2011 and/or December 6, 2013.  Google Earth™ was also used to search for irrigation uses, such as vineyards, which may not provide a signal readily visible in Landsat imagery because of the spacing of the vines. USGS crop survey information from October 2014, which mapped a category described as "young pecans", was also used to verify the irrigation status of some parcels.  Orchards of young pecans may not be readily visible in Landsat imagery because of the spacing between trees.

Google™ was used to search data available via the internet for vineyards located within the San Simon Valley Sub-basin. When vineyards two or more acres in size were identified, their ownership information was added to the data table.

The Landsat imagery analysis described above was completed by two independent Department analysts. In addition, the Department used ERDAS Imagine software to perform an automatic classification to identify irrigated parcels two or more acres in size on each of the images based on the spectral signature of the agriculture. The parcels selected by the classification analysis were then cross-checked by Department staff and added to the data table, when appropriate.

The Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) website was used to locate agricultural leases within the San Simon Valley Sub-basin. The Landsat imagery analysis described above was then used to determine which of the leases had been irrigated during the five years preceding the receipt of the Petition. The list of lease numbers was e-mailed to ASLD, and ASLD returned a list of the lessees of those identified leases.

The Department then evaluated the data table of “irrigation users of groundwater” produced during the Landsat imagery analysis to determine whether each of the petitioners had irrigated at least one parcel of two or more acres during the five years preceding the receipt of the Petition.  The Department verified that 16 petitioning individuals/entities listed in the table above qualified as “irrigation users of groundwater”. Several petitioners also irrigated ASLD leased agricultural land. Where the same entity irrigated both privately-owned land and state-owned land, the entity was counted as a single “irrigation user of groundwater”.   

The data table of “irrigation users of groundwater” was then sorted by landowner, as identified by Cochise County Assessor records, so that a list of landowners who had irrigated at least one parcel of two or more acres during the five years preceding the receipt of the Petition could be compiled. The Department determined that there were a total of 33 non-petitioning landowners on this list. The list of 33 landowners was then compared to the list of ASLD agricultural lessees where irrigation had occurred in the last five years to determine whether there were any lessees with unique names not found on the list of 33 landowners. One such lessee was initially identified, but subsequently removed from the list after the Department received documentation demonstrating that the agricultural lease was being irrigated by a previously identified entity also irrigating privately-owned land.  In addition, the parcel owners of the property identified as “MASSEY BILLY FRED REV TRUST” provided documentation that the property is being farmed by Massey Farms, Inc. and should not be identified as a separate “irrigation user of groundwater”. The Department has removed “MASSEY BILLY FRED REV TRUST” from the list of non-petitioning landowners.

The Department purchased detailed imagery of the irrigated portions of the San Simon Valley sub-basin that was acquired by satellite on March 13 and 14, 2015. The Department is utilizing this imagery, as well as input from the public, to determine if additional “irrigation users of groundwater” should be added to the list of non-petitioners. The Department has determined that the individuals/entities shown under “Additional Non-Petitioners” in the table above should be considered as “irrigation users of groundwater.”

Map of Irrigated Parcels

A map showing the parcels within the San Simon Valley Sub-basin that the Department believes were irrigated during the time period 2010-2014 is available.  The map utilizes infra-red imagery so irrigated lands and other vegetation appear red.  Parcels containing the irrigated lands are overlain in light blue.

II.           Analysis of Authorization of Signatories

The Department undertook to determine whether those individuals who signed the Petition on behalf of separate entities were authorized to do so. In connection with its analysis, the Department reviewed information which is publicly available through the Arizona Corporation Commission’s website as well as Certificates of Resolution and other corporate governance documents submitted by the petitioners. Based on this information, the Department determined that it required the signature of Jared Allred on behalf of Chapman Farms, LLC (Chapman Farms). Chapman Farms submitted the signature of Jared Allred by petition form received on March 6, 2015. The Department was also advised by the President of Bowie Pecans, Inc., (Bowie Pecans) that Bowie Pecans no longer irrigates within the relevant sub-basin. Therefore, Bowie Pecans has not been included as an irrigation user of groundwater for purposes of making the calculation of A.R.S. § 45-433(A)(1). Finally, a map which accompanied the petition form received on February 6, 2015, included as part of the petitioner’s lands a parcel owned by S & H Farms, LLC, an entity not listed on the petition form received February 6, 2015. The Department was advised that an individual authorized to sign on behalf of S & H Farms, LLC, intended but inadvertently failed to list the entity as a petitioner. S & H Farms, LLC, submitted a supplemental petition form which was received by the Department on March 4, 2015.

After its review, the Department determined that the 16 individuals/entities listed in the table above validly petitioned for the designation of an INA within the San Simon Valley Sub-basin.