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Fossil Creek may soon be protected by law, thanks to a bill being fast-tracked through the U.S. Senate by Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.].

The legislation would call for the unique springs and streams of the creek, 14 miles east of Camp Verde, to be designated a Wild and Scenic River, a federally-protected status that would keep the creek’s waters flowing for future generations.

The latest push for federal protection comes on the heels of Camp Verde Mayor Tony Gioia’s recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he met with McCain and other lawmakers to lobby for the protection of critical water resources in the Verde Valley.

“This is something we’ve all worked hard to achieve,” Gioia said.
It’s not the first time politicians have tried to use the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect Fossil Creek.

A similar bill introduced in Congress last year by McCain and U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi [R-Ariz.] failed to make its way through the crowded maze of red tape on Capitol Hill.

“We can only hope it happens this time,” said Jason Williams, regional director with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “Fossil Creek has several outstanding and remarkable values that need to be protected. Just for the native fishery alone, it’s worth it.”

The creek is home to several native species of fish, including speckled dace and chub. Efforts have been ongoing to protect the native fish from non-native species that have been out-competing them for food and space, according to the National Forest Service.

The creek is one of the few waterways in Arizona with year-round flows.
Williams said that federal protection of the creek effectively means “no one can stick a straw in [the creek] and suck the water out.”

That’s important not only for people who enjoy the outdoors and want to use the creek for years to come, Williams said, but also for the local Yavapai and Apache who consider Fossil Creek a sacred site.

For a century, man had subverted the creek to create electricity. Most of its water was diverted to the Childs-Irving Hydroelectric power plant until Arizona Public Service pulled the plug on the facility in 2005.

The creek, noted for its year-round 70-degree water and travertine pools, would be only the second Wild and Scenic River in Arizona.

Part of the upper Verde River was given that designation in 1984. Getting the rest of the river protected is the next obstacle to overcome for water advocates, Gioia said.

“We have to take these one at a time,” Gioia said, citing the nature of politics. “Once we’ve taken care of Fossil Creek, we can look at the Verde River.”

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects 11,000 miles of 165 rivers in 38 states and Puerto Rico. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, that’s about one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s rivers.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or e-mail to
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The Camp Verde Unified School District has purchased 75 acres of land in the Coconino National Forest to set aside for new schools when the need arises. The price: $750.

No, the school district doesn’t have a time machine. The U.S. Forest Service sold the land under a 2000 law called the Forest Service Educational Land Grants Act.

“It’s a very good deal,” said CVUSD Superintendent Jeff Van Handel, Ph.D. “The intent is to eventually build a second K-12 campus.”
The new site would eventually house 1,650 additional students, according to the school district.

Van Handel said that the district spent an additional $50,000 on environmental studies at the site, but that price is minute compared to the estimated $2.25 million the land would have cost on the open market.
Van Handel said that based on enrollment projections and predicted housing market performance, the district could be eligible to build a new campus in 2011.

The 75 acres at Quarterhorse Lane and South Verde Park Drive are adjacent to land being considered for a new park by the Town of Camp Verde, a fact that appealed to the Forest Service when officials were reviewing the school district’s grant application, said Judy Adams, with the Land Staff of the Coconino National Forest’s Red Rock Ranger District.

While the park project may be temporarily stalled, the school district is still going ahead with the purchase.

Even though the land is owned by the Forest Service, Adams said the character of the land was more “community than wildland.”

The law recognizes that in some places in Arizona it’s difficult and prohibitively expensive for school boards to obtain new land.

“This creates a relatively streamlined process for schools to use forest land where it’s available,” Adams said.

Of course, there is a catch. The land can only be used for public school buildings, and if the district ever stops using the land for schools, ownership reverts back to the forest service.

The school district applied for the land grant in 2004 under the direction of former CVUSD Superintendent Ron Maughan. The district is also seeking a grant for an additional 20 acres adjacent to the current campus on Camp Lincoln Road, Adams said.

Under the law, the forest service can transfer no more than 80 acres at one site.

A ceremony at the site is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5

A sewer leak into the Verde River that left some residents holding their noses last week poses no health risk after being contained, according to initial test results from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
In fact, water samples show there is more bacteria in the river upstream from the spill site at White Bridge along Hwy. 260, though river water in both locations is still within acceptable levels for the state.

It’s hard to say the exact reason for the higher bacteria levels upstream, said ADEQ spokesman Mark Shaffer, who noted bacteria levels were extremely variable at several points along the river.

Camp Verde Sanitary District Plant Manager Rick Spears estimated anywhere from 480 to 720 gallons of raw sewage was spilled into the river based on his observations.

But it’s not yet certain exactly how much sewage spilled into the river as a result of the leak, Shaffer said, because it’s unclear exactly how long the spill went undiscovered.

The ruptured pipe, more than 20 years old, is right near a brand new and larger pipe designed as a replacement that hadn’t yet been brought online.
“This was just a very, very difficult situation,” Shaffer said.
A Smelly Situation

A couple walking along the river near the bridge the evening of Sept. 4 saw the leak and reported it to CVSD, Spears said.

Spears arrived early Tuesday to find raw sewage cascading from a pipe under the bridge and realized emergency measures were needed to stop the leak from further contaminating the river while the 8-inch steel pipe could be repaired.

A temporary earthen dam was put up to try and stem the flow of sewage into the river, Spears said.

More calls came in the next morning when people showed up to work at nearby businesses to find sewage bubbling out through manholes.

Pump trucks from local sewage collection companies were called in first thing to help try and relieve the pressure and prevent even more sewage from escaping.

“It was disgusting,” said Monty Montoya, who lives by the river and works at All Classic Auto, the closest business to the spill. “We’ve been smelling this for weeks and you could just see it oozing out.”

Curt Nauer, who works at Robinson’s Equipment next door, had also put up with the smell for weeks. But by Tuesday, he couldn’t put up with it anymore.

“This is the worst it’s been,” Nauer said. “Something needs to be done.”
Spears said he had received complaints about the smell the previous week, but figured it was from a biofilter due for changing at the nearby pump station.

“I didn’t hear anymore complaints after changing the filter until the leak was called in,” Spears said.

The Cleanup

By Tuesday afternoon, CVSD notified ADEQ as required by contract and biologists were dispatched to the site from Phoenix and Flagstaff, Shaffer said. In the meantime, a nearby pump station was shut down to help advance the repair effort.

The district also called Camp Verde Public Works Department to lend a hand. Town Engineer Ron Long said his department helped shore up the dam and dug a collection pool to prevent overflow into the river. The town also brought out a cherry picker truck to help stop the leak.

“We’re just out here to lend a helping hand,” said Long, as men covered in sewage worked to clamp off the pipe from underneath the bridge. The flow was stopped later that afternoon, but that was just the beginning of the cleanup effort, and many more government agencies would become involved over the course of the week.

Contaminated soil was trucked out while new dirt and chemicals were laid down to help cleanup the polluted riverbed, Shaffer said.

ADEQ biologists took water samples as far down river as Horseshoe Creek to check for potentially dangerous levels of bacteria.

“What we fear the most is e.coli and coliform bacteria,” Shaffer said, “But our initial test results show that the spill caused a minimal impact.”

Still, Shaffer said that anyone who feels ill after exposure to the river could seek medical attention.

Because the rupture was on a roadway, the Arizona Department of Transportation was called in. ADOT in turn notified the Salt River Project, since the Verde River eventually joins the Salt River at its mouth.

SRP spokesman Jeff Lane said water treatment plants in the Phoenix Metro area were put on alert, but no problems were expected.

“It’s considered to be a minor spill, so the any contamination is likely to be diluted long before,” Lane said.

The U.S. Forest Service was also notified and signs warning visitors were posted along the river from White Bridge to Beasley Flats, Verde District Ranger Dee Hines said.

The signs will stay up until ADEQ makes a final verification that the water is safe, Hines said.

By the end of the week, Spears said he talked with not only ADEQ, ADOT and the USFS, but also the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“We had to make sure everyone was notified,” Spears said.

CVSD attorney Jim Ledbetter said that the spill was a tragedy, and that the district will work with ADEQ until an investigation is complete.
He also said the district will call a special meeting in the near future to discuss and review the causes of the leak.

The Investigation Continues

While reassured by initial reports that the leak poses no health risk, Shaffer said the final report on the leak might take up to one month to complete. He said ADEQ was looking into claims from residents that sewage had been leaking into the river in one form or another for weeks and would continue to monitor the site. ADEQ will wait until the investigation is finalized to decide what action to take, if any.

“This is just the beginning of the investigation,” Shaffer said. “We’ll file a report after all the data has been analyzed and see what comes down the pike.”

While residents near the river are happy they can breath fresh air again, they hope this is the last time they have to deal with raw sewage.
“There’s lots of people that use this river, including children,” Montoya said. “I just hope they really fix it and not just put a band-aid on it.”

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Camp Verde Town Council members whipped out their scissors to cut through red tape Wednesday night, clearing the way for as many as three new fire stations in the lower Verde Valley.

The Camp Verde Fire District has plans to eventually build stations to provide better protection for residents and businesses in Middle Verde, Verde Lakes and along Hwy. 260 on the west side of I-17.

At issue was the town’s zoning ordinance, which made it difficult for separate organizations like the Camp Verde Fire District to build stations in primarily residential or commercial areas.

Before Sept. 5, the fire district would have only been eligible for a temporary use permit, and it could have taken as long as a year to get the necessary approval from the town every time the district wanted to build a new station, CFVD Secretary Treasurer Jack Blum said.

“I had concerns about building a fire station that would cost millions of dollars with only a temporary permit,” Blum said. “And with the rising cost of construction materials, we want to buy the parcels now.”

The council voted unanimously to change the language in the zoning ordinance, opening a loophole big enough to drive a fire truck through.
Blum thanked the council for its quick action.

Mayor Tony Gioia said it was the town’s duty to help provide safety for Camp Verde residents.

“[The fire district] is an essential public service,” Gioia said. “We know there’s a need and we want to do everything we can.”

Gioia said changing the zoning ordinance removed a major hurdle for the CVFD, although there are still some details to be worked out with the town’s Planning and Zoning Department.

Without the council’s vote, even waiting a year to start building could have been costly, Blum said, noting that the cost of construction materials has been rising almost 1 percent a month.

The fire district wants to use the same architectural designs for all three 10,000 square-foot stations, but Blum said the district’s first priority is for a station near the schools to serve Middle Verde. The CFVD is already looking at two-acre parcels of land in the area and Blum hopes to have that station completed within two years at a cost of $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

“For the sake of the people on this side of town, that might not be a bad idea,” said Jan Allen, an Arena Del Loma resident.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Backhoes, politicians and developers kicked up dirt east of Camp Verde during the festive dedication for the Camp Verde Sanitary District’s new wastewater treatment plant Jan. 25.

Planned for a location north of Hwy. 260 in east Camp Verde, the new plant, part of a $16 million expansion of sewer service in Camp Verde, will eventually treat 650,000 gallons of sludge a day.

The project expands CVSD’s capacity to treat sewage at a rate that stays just ahead of demand, CVSD records state.

The new plant means Camp Verde will enjoy a cleaner
environment, CVSD Board Chairman Rob Witt said.

That’s a change from the past 12 years, when CVSD effluent, or treated sewage, failed to meet government standards, according to CVSD records.
“That wasn’t very environmentally responsible,” Witt said.

“The new plant means we’ll take better care of our environment, but it also means we can have a new businesses come into our community.”

Extending sewer lines across the length of the town will spur development, bringing construction jobs for local tradesmen and trade for local merchants, Witt said.

The expansion also means construction of more than 250 homes planned for Silverado at Simonton Ranch, a subdivision located near the intersection of Finnie Flat Road and Hwy. 260, can finally begin after months of delays, Witt said.

Tumbleweeds presently dot the terraced landscape there, where site-grading wrapped up several months ago. That landscape is about to go through another dramatic change.

Retailers planning stores for the Simonton Ranch development will also start building soon, Witt said.

When the sewer expansion is finally complete, rate-payers will see an increase in their monthly bill, Roy Gugliotta, executive director of the Camp Verde Chamber of Commerce and a recently-appointed member of the CVSD board.

Likewise, some members of the sanitary district will pay an assessment to hook up, as much as $3,500 and possibly more, depending on location.
Still others, many longtime Camp Verde residents, already paid for their hook-up and will not be assessed, Gugliotta said.

Part of the planned extension of lines reaches about a mile north of I-17 on Hwy. 260. That line will relieve hotels and restaurants of the tremendous cost of vaulting and hauling sewage from their locations, a service some business owners currently pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a month, CVSD records state.

Greg Ruland can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Every city and town in Northern Arizona has a wish list, but there never seems to be enough money to go around.

So think of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments as a municipal Santa Claus, or at the very least, Santa’s little helper.

Camp Verde is just one of dozens of regional communities reorganizing its list of community priorities it the hopes that NACOG can use its influence to funnel grant money into key local improvements from housing to public works.

Projects competing for attention on Camp Verde’s list this year include funding for improvements to the senior center, a public works complex and the extension of sidewalks along Main Street.

NACOG is a non-profit organization governed by members appointed by all participating town, city and county governments in Apache, Coconino, Navajo and Yavapai counties, and it’s that cooperation that gives the organization its strength, said Michia Casebier, a grant writer who has worked on behalf of several governments and organizations in the region.

“They’re vital,” Casebier said, “ … they have a voice that state departments listen to. As a united voice of all the communities of Northern Arizona it has more power.”

It’s the power of collective bargaining and shared expertise that lets NACOG know where to find the money, be it in Phoenix or elsewhere, she said.

“It’s serious business,” said Norma Garrison, town councilwoman and, Camp Verde’s representative to NACOG. “It’s a very important resource for all our cities and towns.”

Northern Arizona communities make a list of things they’d like to see funded and give each one a priority number.

Of course, not every project is going to get funded.

“Sometimes it a matter of the squeaky wheel getting the grease,” Casebier said. “It often depends on the size of the community or several other factors.”

Vice Mayor Brenda Hauser, wants improvements to the
cemetery, senior center and a domestic violence program.

Mayor Tony Gioia wants a revolving loan fund, library construction and city sidewalks.

Garrison wants to see funding for a youth center raised from the lowest priority to the highest, citing surveys that put that at the top of what people in Camp Verde want.

No matter what grants end up coming down the pike, Garrison said she feels NACOG is going to give Camp Verde a better chance to see some cash.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Norma Garrison and Mike Parry have won seats on Camp Verde's town council.

Garrison had the largest number of votes with 1,339.

Parry won his first full-term seat after having been appointed in January of 2006 to replace Chet Teague, who resigned.

Parry beat his nearest competitor, Harry L. Duke, by 45 votes.

Jackie Baker lost her bid for a 3rd term on council, with 978 votes to Duke's 1,141 and Parry's 1,186.

Turnout for the May 15 election was 52.5  percent, only 7 points below the March 13 primary that saw Tony Gioia re-elected for mayor and Greg Elmer win a seat on council. <!--[endif]-->

At the Camp Verde Unified School District, about 900 voters — a turnout of approximately 19 percent — resoundingly defeated the override request, with votes running more than 4-to-1 against it.

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]-->The override would have funded a revived music program and decreased class size in the elementary school.

<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> Superintendent Jeff Van Handel said the district would focus on providing high quality core curriculum, since that's the message the voters sent

An intergovernmental agreement between the Town of Camp Verde and the Camp Verde Sewer District had specified that an operating agreement was to be in place by the end of May. Yet a month-and-a-half after that deadline, no such agreement is in place.

“The IGA kinda covers everything,” said Dane Bullard, who is both the town’s head of human resources and finance director. “We just wanted to get more specifics in terms of who’s responsible on things like the employees.”

The IGA stated that the town would use its own employees to “operate and oversee waste water treatment operations,” which would include the town first “hiring a certified operator.”

The new manager/operator of CVSD’s wastewater treatment plant, Richard Spears, is in place, getting paid by the town and receiving town benefits.

According to Bullard, Spears’ salary and benefits are reimbursed by CVSD, and Spears is not technically on the town payroll.

Bullard said that there was some consultation by the town in sewer affairs recently, but that the town had not been involved in Spears’ hiring process.
Down the road, the town is slated to take over the district completely. At that point, Bullard said the town may take on the district’s current employees or may go through a rehiring process.

Bullard also said that he thought the current reimbursement procedure was a “carrot, if you will, for hiring district employees.”

“The intention was that the town was actually to go out and find all the employees and run the operation,” CVSD Board Chairman Rob Witt said.

In the transition, that just didn’t get communicated very well to [Interim Town Manager] Dave Smith, and that’s probably my fault. I just kinda felt like, gosh, he’s got plenty to do, he’s steppin’ up and doin’ and great job.

So I just went out and found a certified operator and we hired him.”
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality oversees the certification and safety of wastewater treatment plants and those who operate them. As of last week, according to ADEQ’s Web-based database of operator certifications, Spears had a level one certification, though level two is required.

Friday, July 6, ADEQ officials could not locate any certification for Spears.

Witt said that Spears passed his level four certification two weeks ago.
Other problems plague the treatment plant.

Last week, CVSD received a letter from Yavapai County Community Health Services stating that three months of monitoring had shown that their plant’s mosquito abatement plan was inadequate.

“Residents of Camp Verde are being subjected to a continuing and unacceptable public health risk,” the letter stated.

“Weekly trapping of adult mosquitoes has also shown steep increases, from 106 on June 5, 2007, to an estimated 1,800 on June 27, 2007.”

The letter described challenging conditions at the plant, including “thick vegetation, hundreds of elk hoof prints and the high organic load in the water.”

In general, the letter struck an upbeat tone that assumed compliance and cooperation by CVSD with the county health services.

Sludge buildup has been an ongoing problem at CVSD’s plant, and the letter stated that this problem was providing shallow and still areas ripe for mosquito breeding.

The health services’ letter states that “CVSD must be
prepared to implement a more aggressive and successful
mosquito abatement plan by [Monday] July 9.”

As of press time, no July 9 board meeting had been scheduled.

Witt said he thinks Spears’ plan is to apply for a permit to use koi — a large East Asian carp that would prey on the mosquito larvae — to safely control the mosquito problem

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