The city of Tombstone, Ariz. will continue its ongoing “showdown” with the federal government over the town’s right to rebuild its water pipes that were destroyed in the devastating “Monument Fire” last August.
This week, U.S. District Judge Frank Zapata struck down Tombstone’s request for an emergency injunction against the U.S. Forest Service to allow the city to use heavy equipment to repair pipes located in protected areas.
The town has been unable to use machinery to reconstruct the pipes because they are located in a federally protected wilderness area. Shortly following the fire, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declared a state of emergency for the city.
“Tombstone draws 50 to 80 percent of its water supply from springs in the Monument Fire burn area,” the governor’s office said. “Erosion and debris flow caused by summer storms damaged the city’s aqueduct and water transmission system.”
Tombstone has appealed Zapata’s decision to the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and insist they intend to bring battle to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“We are absolutely going to move this to the Supreme Court as soon as we possibly can, using every vehicle at our discretion,” Nick Dranias, an attorney representing Tombstone through the libertarian-leaning Goldwater Institute, told The Daily Caller.
George Barnes, Tombstone’s city clerk and manager, explained to TheDC that the city is currently “sliding by” with the water capacity what they can get from wells and some area springs for their reservoir. But with seasonal monsoon rains coming, they are concerned that the temporary fixes the city has made to 130 year-old system will be destroyed.
“The problem is, with the monsoon rains approaching a lot of the temporary repairs we have been able to make will be washed away because they are in the flow path, and we were not allowed to do protective burns,” Barnes said, explaining that there is no way to completely reconstruct the pipes without machinery.
According to Dranias, the Forest Service is violating the state’s sovereignty.
“The city of Tombstone’s water supply in the Huachuca Mountains is sovereign property,” he said. “The authority of the city of Tombstone to repair that municipal property is sovereign power because it’s based on a state of emergency that authorizes all police powers in the state behind Tombstone in repairing that municipal property. And so when the federal government impedes that effort and runs the city of Tombstone through an indefinite and vague and seemingly interminable regulatory process, there is no question the federal government is trying to regulate states, not people.”
On June 8 and 9, Barnes said the city will be bringing in the Tombstone Shovel Brigade, which was formed to repair the water system that was destroyed by the Monument Fire and “damaged by both the actions and inaction of the federal government,” as the group explains on their website.
“Shovels are arriving every day and we hope to have enough people to occupy them,” Barnes added, explaining they are continuing hand construction on the pipes. “We remain optimistic. We believe we have firm property rights there, it goes back a long ways.”
“The town too tough to die is still too tough,” Barnes said.