Water system ownership transferred to city (January 30, 2022)

BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City now is the proud owner of the local water system.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Charles W. Gurtler Jr. signed a final order of condemnation, closing the eminent domain case in which the city took over operation — and eventual ownership — of EPCOR Water Arizona’s Mohave and North Mohave systems.

It’s done, said Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter on Friday night, a few hours after the transaction was approved by Gurtler and notarized by court and county officials. What a relief and a celebration for the city.

The takeover and celebration came at a steep price: the city paid a total of $100 million to EPCOR; $80 million gave the city the right to take over operations of the system on Sept. 1 and the remaining $20 million, paid to EPCOR on Friday morning, closed the deal in a settlement reached by the two parties earlier this month.

That settlement vacated a jury trial that had been scheduled to begin Jan. 24 to determine the final sale price for EPCOR’s local assets.

Both sides reportedly spent substantial sums in legal fees during the arduous process that began with the passage of Proposition 415 by Bullhead City voters in 2019, authorizing the city to condemn the EPCOR property in what the utility viewed as a hostile takeover.

The final exchange of money and titles occurred Friday.

Gurtler’s signed order was filed with Superior Court Clerk Christina Spurlock’s office at 1:30 p.m. and with the office of Mohave County Recorder Kristi Blair about 45 minutes later.

The final order was a formality — but a necessary one to transfer actual ownership of the water system from EPCOR to the city.

The subject property is comprised of the certificates of convenience and necessity, franchises, all real and personal property, tangible and intangible assets, customer and business records and plant, property and equipment used and useful for providing water service in and around the city, regardless of whether it is within or outside the geographic limits of the CC&Ns, the order stated. “The subject property is generally included within the areas referred to as the ‘Mohave District’ and the ‘North Mohave District.’ The subject property includes the following generally described water systems: Mohave, North Mohave, Desert Foothills, Camp Mohave, Lake Mohave and Rio Vista.

While a part of the ‘Mohave District,’ the subject property excludes the Arizona Gateway and Willow Valley water systems, which were not condemned in this action.

The order lists more than 50 pieces of real estate — sites of facilities previously operated or maintained by EPCOR — and more than 40 vehicles and implements that were part of EPCOR’s fleet devoted to serving the Mohave and North Mohave systems.

Now the City Council and administration know they have local control, which is definitely a local benefit for the rate payers of Bullhead City, Cotter said. “Millions of dollars will no longer go to Canada. Millions of dollars will stay in Bullhead City.

For decades to come, local residents will control their own destiny when it comes to water. Bullhead City will not be consolidated with Phoenix-area water users who have dramatically different water conveyance systems. This is absolutely the best situation for the residents of Bullhead City.

Source: Bill McMillen, Mohave Valley Daily News