Tombstone takes on feds for water supply

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Tombstone takes on feds for water supply

CREATED May 16, 2012

Reporter: Aaron Brackett
Web Producer: Chuck Meyer

TOMBSTONE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - The town too tough to die is drying up. A water pipeline dispute with the feds is keeping tombstone water levels dangerously low.

Last year, the Monument Fire did more than char the landscape, City Manager Kevin Rudd it also damaged Tombstone's water infrastructure.

"The landslides and floods brought these boulders and debris, you can imagine what comes out of those canyons," said Rudd. "It destroyed most of the auxiliary pipeline and a large section of the main aqueduct."

Tombstone town leaders say the land the pipes traverse is city-owned while the Forest Service says not so fast. They say the city cannot bring heavy machinery onto protected land without permission.

This week, a federal judge sided with Smokey the Bear.

"Its limiting our ability to get in and make the repairs necessary to ensure that the temporary repairs are protected," said Rudd. "We cannot do that right now. When the monsoons come this year, the repairs we have done are going to get washed away again.

The water fight is the talk of the town.

Carey Granger works for the mine tour and sees the water table shrinking daily.

"Before that fire, nobody cared about our water pipeline, it was just up there supplying the town with water and nobody had any problem with it," recalled Granger. Now its utter devastation up there, and now they are calling it a wilderness area. [The Forest Service] is saying, no you can't go up there to fix it, well its been yours since before the Forest Service. I feel that we ought to be able to go up there and just fix it, just restore it."

The Forest Service will allow non-motorized machinery into the remote area and a group of volunteers is ready to tackle the repairs by hand, hopefully before the town's reservoirs turn to dust.