The city of Tombstone, Arizona, has lost the first round in its showdown with the federal government over water.
U.S. District Judge Frank Zapata this week shot down Tombstone’s request for an emergency injunction ordering the U.S. Forest Service to step aside and let the city use heavy equipment to repair its 130-year-old pipeline in the Huachuca Mountains.
The pipeline and some of Tombstone’s springs lie within a federally protected wilderness area, requiring a permit from the Forest Service. But Tombstone says it owns the land and doesn't have to ask anyone for permission to make repairs that are critical to its survival.
In a 14-page written decision, Zapata said the evidence showed that the Forest Service had attempted to approve some permits, but that the city did not provide enough information.
Tombstone immediately appealed to the 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Tombstone also plans to ask the 9th Circuit court for an injunction.
“We will take it all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary,” said Christina Sandefur, and attorney with the Goldwater Institute, which represents Tombstone.
Tombstone’s 26-mile water line, which dates back to 1881, was damaged in landslides that followed last summer’s Monument Fire.
The city plans to hold the Tombstone Shovel Brigade on June 8 and 9, hoping hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers with donated shovels will head into the mountains and work on the pipeline.
“The most desperate part of our work is to try to protect the work we have done from the monsoons,” said Tombstone City Clerk George Barnes.