Mohave County hires legal firm for water cases

KINGMAN – Protecting groundwater rights of the Hualapai and Sacramento basins has become a top priority for Mohave County officials, and to that end, the Board of Supervisors on Monday voted 3-2 to hire a legal firm for representation in water cases.

The board will sign an agreement with HighGround for government affairs and related services at a monthly fee of $12,000, in conjunction with Sheryl Sweeney of Ryley Carlock and Applewhite, who’s giving the county a 15-percent discount for a rate of $395 an hour.

Supervisor Steve Moss said the county needs representation on water issues at the state level and that Highground is a “fine firm.”

Supervisor Hildy Angius voted against hiring the law firm because the county’s budget is still in the air. “It’s putting the cart before the horse,” she said.

It’s an “exorbitant” amount of money, Supervisor Jean Bishop agreed. But if the county had the firm on board in the Freeport McMoran water settlement for the Bagdad mine, maybe things would have turned out better, she said.

Supervisor Buster Douglas, who cast the other dissenting vote, said most of the water issues are in the Kingman area and wanted to know if the city has offered to share the cost.

“Not to my knowledge. There’s been no discussion with Kingman,” county attorney Ryan Esplin responded.

Moss said the focus right now is on groundwater in Kingman, but Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City will have issues soon enough with surface water allocation from the Colorado River.

The scope of HighGround’s services includes representing Mohave County before Arizona’s executive and legislative branches, coordinating lobbying efforts and developing public affairs strategies.

The law firm will advise, assist and represent the county on “critical” groundwater and surface water issues such as the significant increase in agricultural use of water from the Hualapai and Sacramento basins.