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Grassroots Movement in Coconino County, Arizona

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Message Grace Thompson



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Grassroots Movement In Coconino County, Arizona


Think they can do it?   Visualize this: A low-income, mobile home studded, rural community in Northern Arizona that, in perpetuity, is provided with potable water from a water Well it owns and operates.

The vision is really not that far-fetched.   After all, the Northern Arizona landscape you're visualizing did start out  that way a long time ago. The only difference is that when LaVaun Harenberg owned the 800 acres surrounding the Well he had dug into the aquifer in 1987, the water he provided to his acreage was not potable and he was the only resident there. Today in 2013, the water provided from that Well is still not potable.   But, now, over 500 families take water from that Well.   Many refuse to drink it, but some do, and the ones who don't drink it bathe in it. Bathing in it amounts to almost the same as drinking it. 

Since Harenberg's initial splitting and selling of his land holdings, the Well's vitality has become more pronounced. That is because in this arid Northern Arizona region, boasting about 9.5 in of precipitation each year, more and more people are relying on the Well for water. Many people moved into the area because they knew the Well was there. And in reliance thereon, they bought cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, and fowls, and planted trees.   Harenberg had foreseen how important the Well would be to the future owners of his land and so he made certain that whoever purchased it, would, at the purchaser's expense, perpetually provide the community with water. However, Harenberg failed to foresee that his provisions could not prevent selfish developers from fulfilling the provisions by providing the community with less than promised and only at his convenience, not theirs. 

The people of Alpine Ranches, more commonly referred to as the "Forties", (acreage originally sold in 40acre parcels) are coming together to reclaim Harenberg's Well for the community. The present owner, a bankrupt corporation, Agra Technologies, has a judgment lien against it by the State Corporation Commission in the amount of 16.25 Million Dollars. In addition, a "Forties" area developer has leased the Well and its appurtenances and is attempting to buy them with the intention to sequester one of the holding tanks and develop the property for the furtherance of his own private money making scheme. 

 For a number of months the Well was open from 7AM-7PM, Mon-Sat. with the hours of operation posted there. Since January 2013, these business hours have fluctuated with no advance communication to the community. Community residents find out the hours of operation by "word of mouth" or when they go to the well for water, find no one there and track down the manager, i.e. if they're lucky.   Often, community residents will man the water station, fully donating their time.   So what does it matter to the lessee if these donors open and close the station at their own convenience? His interest is in making money not in providing water to the community.

The Well's lessee, Star School Director, owns another Well located at the Star School. That Well had tapped into the same aquifer directly across the street from the community Water Station. But, because the community Well is more powerful, this lessee/developer intends, among other things, to reserve water from it for the purpose of fire suppression at his charter school. Alpine Ranchers say to the developer, "No way!   Why should we step aside and allow anyone to line his pockets, bank accounts and stock portfolios with our lifeblood? The only reason he's  not using his own Well for fire suppression is because he can make more money using ours. He wants to sell us our water.   Instead, we should be selling our water to him and then we, not he, can become the business and job creators in our own community!"   

The Alpine Ranches community has undertaken a grassroots movement to block the sale of the Water Station to this developer; bring back its control and management to the people and make the water potable. The move will bring Alpine Ranches back to the "New, Improved" original intention of LaVaun Harenberg -- that [potable] water always  be accessible to the community which farms, ranches and lives on this beautiful, but dry, Northern Arizona land. 

And as Grace Thompson, Treasurer, Alpine Ranches Water Commission puts it, "I know how much clout money has today and I also know that this community is low-income but we're going to win this case. We're going to win because not only do we have the law but we also have the Lord on our side." 

Alpine Ranchers will be posting a Water Commission Constitution very soon. Anyone interested in learning more about this issue and this community and its Well is asked to view their Internet website at

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I am one of the women involved in a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart. It stayed in the courts for almost 10 yrs for the U.S.Sup. Ct. to rule it can't proceed as a class action. No lawyer will take my case. It's dead! Consequently, I'm (more...)
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