May 16th, 2012
04:31 PM ET

Federal judge turns down Tombstone's emergency bid to fix water pipeline

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.

Showdown at the H20 corral

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.

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Filed under: Arizona
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. fearlessdude

    Most likely the Feds would approve the building of a private toll road through that wilderness area.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andy

    No offense, but if you cannot provide your own water sustainably, you need to not live there anymore. I think this applies to most of the southwest into texas. Potable water is a finite resource.

    May 17, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunny

      They provided their own water sustainability just fine for a hundred years, Andy. They will do so again once the Federal Government stops jerking them around.

      If the BLM lands eroded and crushed the piping and springs historically owned and maintained by the town of Tombstone, then the BLM should be responsible for fixing them again, you'd think. There's no sensible reason to deny them from using 'mechanized' means. The impact on the land would be far less than having 1000 people trampling, eating and drinking – and eliminating – along the pipelines for months at a time.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:07 am | Report abuse |
    • SixDegrees

      Tombstone has been sustainably providing themselves with water for over a century. It's the BLM's incompetent land management practices that damaged Tombstone's pipeline, and the BLM's incompetent oversight of the land that now stands in the way of repairing it.

      May 17, 2012 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
    • BigHwasdemo

      As the story said, it is their water and they have a right to it. This is just more of the HEAVY HAND of government beating down the small citizens of this country. Freedom FROM government is what we need.

      May 17, 2012 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Merkat

      What the hell are you talking about? All office buildings should have rain catch basins? Good freaking grief...

      May 17, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Mittens

      What they need to do is lace it with poisonous chemicals and sand and pump it back into the earth to get out the life giving oil and natural gas. Then they would have friends in high places paving the way for them to get their water.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • improvementsahead

      Absolutely! Shut down New York City! Their water reserves come from over 100 miles away from upstate New York. That is 4 times father away than this little town.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • improvementsahead

      Absolutely! New York City's water comes from over 100 miles away from upstate New York. I agree if you do not have your own water shut them down! I would love to see NYC shut down.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Vonzo

      Where does your water come from Andy? Do you provide it? If not you should move.
      They can get their own water if the federal government and the environazis would get out of the way. They've been obtaining their own water since the 1880s.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • chris

      Did you read this at all they need to REPAIR a 130 year old pipe line to the springs outside of town that was damaged in last years storms. The fed said they had to use horses and no power tools because it may hurt the wildlife mainly an owl who is no longer there because big shocker the storms the destroyed the pipe line destroyed the owl's habitat and it moved.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • JCK


      With that mentality, you're saying most large cities including Los Angeles should just dismantle and go away.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Offensetaken

      Just where do you get your water? Unless it magically appears, you rely on a well or water pipes to bring it to you. All they are asking is it to repair the water system, the same as you would if your well stopped working. The problem is how do you repair a system that runs thru a forest? So the delema is Tree huggers vs Developement? There should be a compromise but that would require 2 reasonable rational parties.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony S.

      They CAN provide themselves with water, our governing bodies are preventing them from achieving that necessity.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. fryuujin

    all this B S about the big & bad government, did YOU notice that it's the GOVERNMENT of Tombstone that wants the Federal Government to allow them to fix their POS pipe line water system that appears to the failed design of 4th graders. Who builds a water system that terrible.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • cul8rv8

      Too bad that 4th grader isn't alive to help fix it, I guess, since he would have to be 140 years old. If a 130 year old pipe system was designed in the 1800's by a 4th grader, could you imagine if one of the rocket scientist friends of Wyatt Earp would have designed it?!?

      May 17, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. M

    Fed's need to get outta the way and let them do what needs to be done.
    This is typical of the current administration, they fight with any state that has taken the initiative to be responsible for themselves. Good Luck Tombstone!

    May 17, 2012 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. iceload9

    There is a big piece missing from this story. The pipe is damaged, the city needs the pipe working, they are willing to pay for repairs, they are willing to do the repairs but the feds won't allow it. I think whats missing is sanity.

    May 17, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Mendrick

      Fryuujin I going to have to disagree with you on it being a terrible water system. I mean its been there since 1881. And If you read the last article about the forest service only allowing them to use shovels and no motorized vehicles. in order to maintain the water system. I would say it’s a dam good one. And would only get better if they were allowed to fix it.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. ELH

    The BLM is an agency that is controlled by those who have money and special interests. The BLM has no problem leasing public lands to cattle producers for 1/100 of its worth. The BLM has no problem in allowing testosterone-driven maniacs rip up countless acres of fragile desert with over-powered fume-spewing big-boy toys.

    The BLM should be disbanded and control of the public lands turned over to the appropriate local nature conservancy organization.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  7. LOL in Oregon

    Haaa, Haaa, Haaa,
    They neglected to do what the Portland Oregon folk did:
    Get congress to dedicate 102 square miles of wilderness exclusively to the use of the Stump Town folk
    as the Bull Run Watershed!

    Now, the Stump Town folk work real hard to make sure no one else can do the same thing!

    May 17, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ray E. Georgia

    This is all Politics. Another good reason to fire the current Adminstration. Don't believe me? Take a look at the Gibson Guitar Company Case in Nashville. They confiscated some wood from Gibson over 2 years ago but can't file a case. All Politics.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brian Richards

    Why do conservatives always blame the government for not giving them handouts? Why can't they take responsibility for themselves? Obviously these people live out in the desert where there is no water, which is not smart. Next they are running the water they need on land owned by all the citizens Of the USA so they ought to pay rent based on market prices of water — you know, run government like a business. Water is going for about a dollar a quart in grocery stores. Pay that price or move and quit your whining. Literally you are drinking out of the government trough. Disgusting.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • NooYawkah

      If you're trying to be sarcastic you've failed. They're "running water" on land that THEY own, not the citizens of the USA, for starters.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joe User

    How can a Federal judge deny a town a permit that would, literally, save their lives?!?!? Just another example of our corrupt, and inept judicial system.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. NooYawkah

    Well, maybe not her face...

    May 17, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Duane

    The Feds are overstepping their authority. I would just go in and do it

    May 17, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  13. physicsstudent

    I feel like people are missing the point.....the article clearly says the permits were denied because the city didn't provide enough information. It seems like all Tombstone needs to do is stop wasting taxpayer money by fighting this, and just submit the correct paperwork.

    May 17, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. UtahProf

    I think it is great that the Feds are too arrogant and short-sighted to simply let them make the repairs – this will end up going to SCOTUS along with dozens of other similar lawsuits in process by almost every State in the union. In the end, the Feds will end up losing – and not just losing some "land" either. This kind of fight is long overdue.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
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