July 31, 2023 — Less than a year ago, voters in Cochise County, Arizona, agreed to create the Douglas Active Management Area (AMA) that regulates groundwater withdrawals in the basin. The decision, the first of its kind in the state, has been upheld by county officials who rejected a new proposal aiming to repeal it.
Despite the presence of other AMAs in Arizona, the Douglas AMA was unique as it was the first to be passed by a public vote. A recent initiative was introduced to overturn this landmark decision. The counter-initiative was set to appear on the Cochise County ballot in November, proposed by a local resident.
The new initiative faced a legal challenge from the Environmental Defense Action Fund. The Fund claimed that the proposal had not been filed correctly. James Barton, the Fund’s lawyer, pointed out that the supporting signatures were delivered in two batches, a practice forbidden under Arizona law and confirmed by state courts.
Given these findings, county election authorities decided the legal challenge was valid, resulting in the removal of the counter-initiative from the upcoming ballot.