Arizona Legislature Wraps up with Wins for Birds, Water, and Public Lands

New budget includes funding for invasive plant removal, wastewater infrastructure, and water department staff.

The budget negotiations went on for weeks. Then, over the long Memorial Day weekend, Arizona Republican lawmakers (who control the Senate, House, and the Governor’s seat), suddenly struck a deal and wrapped up the 54th Legislature, 1st Regular Session.

Audubon advocated for (or in some cases, against) several bills directly and through our network—we testified in committees, talked directly with lawmakers, and engaged partner organizations. And our Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN) members sent more than 3,000 letters and e-mails to state and federal lawmakers to let them know we support actions that protect precious water resources and the habitat birds need.

Here's a list of laws we advocated for or tried to stop—and how they concluded:

  • HB 2545/ SB 1227: Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan
    • The Legislature passed and Governor Doug Ducey signed into law the Drought Contingency Plan early in session. This series of agreements to keep more water in Lake Mead reduces the likelihood of catastrophic shortages and increases the chances of maintaining a flowing lower Colorado River, which is a win for people and birds.
  • HB 2580/ SB 1450: Invasive vegetation eradication grants
    • Audubon Arizona supported this legislation to provide grants to remove invasive plants (such as salt cedar) along waterways and restore habitat with native plants. The final budget (signed into law by the Governor) ended up allocating $1 million per year, over the span of ten years. Audubon will monitor the implementation of this new grant program to ensure that birds and our waterways benefit.
  • HB 2467: West basin water users study committees
    • This bill passed and was signed by the Governor. It allows the local communities in La Paz and Mohave Counties to form study committees to examine the extent of groundwater depletion and propose potential solutions to the Legislature, Governor, and Arizona Department of Water Resources. Audubon and our partners will monitor the formation of these study committees and the results and recommendations they produce. We think this is a small, but very important step toward managing groundwater resources in parts of Arizona where there are currently no protections.
    • We sent out two Action Alerts to the Western Rivers Action Network on this issue, yielding 852 responses urging State Senators to support this important bill.
  • HB 2448: Appropriation of funds to repair the International Outfall Interceptor and protect the Santa Cruz River
    • This bill allocated funds to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to repair a critical piece of wastewater infrastructure that eventually feeds into the Santa Cruz River. Audubon supported this bill, and more than $2.5 million was included in the approved budget for the repair. Read more about this important issue in our previous Western Water blog.
  • HB 2124: Appropriation of funds to support the courts handling the water-related issue of the General Stream Adjudications
    • About $490,000 was included in the approved budget to provide personnel for the court handling the General Stream Adjudications, an obscure water lawsuit that needs resolution and actually matters for rivers and birds. Audubon supported this funding effort. Read why here.
  • SB 1440: Appropriation of funds to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) for staff to conduct outreach, data acquisition, and analysis
    • Similarly, we supported this allocation of funding to hire staff at ADWR because data acquisition, historical analysis, and modeling are desperately needed to support the water court in the General Stream Adjudications in order to determine who has a right to how much water. The final budget for ADWR includes $1.74 million for adjudication support.
  • HB 2111: Water supply adequacy exemptions
    • This bill would have allowed entities that had previously voluntarily opted in to the Adequate Water Supply rules to opt out. Audubon Arizona opposed this bill. The Adequate Water Supply rules require developers to prove they have enough groundwater for 100 years before they are allowed to build. Cochise County, Yuma County, the Town of Clarkdale, and the Town of Patagonia are currently the only entities who have voluntarily signed up for this water management tool. We are glad to report that HB 2111 did not pass out of the House. We sent an Action Alert to the Western Rivers Action Network on this piece of legislation in February and 553 WRAN members let State Representatives know that it was not a good idea to go backward on laws that protect groundwater and provide consumer protections.
  • HB 2557: Study on the establishment of a state public land department
    • Audubon Arizona was opposed to this measure to establish a new Arizona Department of Public Land Management and an associated Public Land Management Fund, which would have allowed the state to arrange agreements with the federal government for state management of federally-owned public lands. Federal public lands are often undeveloped and crucial bird habitat in Arizona. Our partners at the Arizona Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited fought hard in the final hours of the legislative session to prevent this bill from moving forward. While it did not pass this session, we expect more bills like this to come. We remain opposed to state takeover of federal public lands. We will stay vigilant and let you know when there is an opportunity to engage on this issue.

This legislative session, Audubon Arizona and our grassroots Western Rivers Action Network worked to protect birds and the places they need. Thank you for all that you do.