Sunday, May 23, 2010

Arizona Boggles on River Definition…Ownership

I carefully tore out Steve Ayers’ article, “Verde ownership status still on hold”, from a recent issue of the Verde Independent  and have read and re-read the piece a dozen times or more.

Attorneys are the only ones who seemingly understand the questions of ownership of the Verde River and courts keep passing the issue up, down, and sideways.

The basic question, courts are asking, is whether the Verde River was “navigable” in 1912 when Arizona became a state.

Navigable is the operative word.

The impact of the answer is two-pronged.
  1. If navigable, the State owns the Verde River and it is public.
  2. If it wasn’t navigable, adjacent property owners own the Verde and it is private.
Questions are legion.

Does Arizona legally define rivers as having to be “navigable”?

What is “navigable”…?
      Navigable to an inner tube?
      Navigable to a river boat drawing 1 – 2 ft. of water?
      Navigable to an inflatable raft?
      Navigable to a swimmer?

What is in the best interest of the State?

What is in the best interest of the people of Arizona?

Is it in the best interest of the State to let ownership fall to property owners of the region who would “own” the water and divert it to a ditch system to sell to various interests?

Whatever the questions…Whatever the speculations…The river will win.  Attach sufficient legal handles, manipulate it through the courts, “handle” it enough, and…it will fool you. 

Rivers can be fickle.  Maybe…just maybe, it will dry up and call itself a dry wash.