Tombstone takes water fight to canyons, Capitol Hill
Members of the Tombstone Shovel Brigade climbed two miles up a steep canyon to repair a 26-mile water pipeline.
June 8th, 2012
09:12 PM ET

Tombstone takes water fight to canyons, Capitol Hill

Tombstone, Arizona (CNN) – Under an unforgiving desert sun, about 60 determined souls gathered in a high school football field under the banner of the Tombstone Shovel Brigade. They collected shovels and joined a pickup truck caravan across the desert. Then they climbed two miles up a steep, rocky canyon and began to move part of a mountain, one boulder at a time.

Thousands of miles away, in the nation’s capital, Tombstone’s congressman and the city archivist tried to move a bureaucratic mountain, too, during hearings before a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Tombstone, as CNN has reported, is in the midst of a court battle with the U.S. Forest Service. At issue is whether Tombstone can take heavy equipment into federally protected wilderness.

Tombstone is trying to repair a 26-mile pipeline that has brought mountain spring water into the city since 1881. The pipeline was damaged during last summer’s Monument Fire and floods that brought mud and boulders crashing down the denuded mountainside.

The city sued the Forest Service in December, accusing the agency of dragging its feet during a state of emergency. The courts have turned down the city’s request for an emergency injunction, and so the battle has entered a new phase in the court of public opinion.

Frustrated with the slow pace of the repairs, Tombstone’s supporters created the nonprofit Tombstone Shovel Brigade a couple of months ago. They are helped by the organizers of the Jarbidge Shovel Brigade, which used volunteer muscle power to move a boulder and reopen a mountain road on federal wilderness in 2000.

Tombstone has become the poster city for a sweeping resurgence of the Sagebrush Rebellion in some Western states. This time, Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory explained, the rebellion is not fueled by oilmen and cattle ranchers.

Instead, local governments are behind the movement to push back against what they say is the federal government’s treatment of them as “submissive subdivisions.”

U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake has introduced H.R. 5971, the Emergency Water Supply Restoration Act, which proposes to set aside Forest Service restrictions against the use of construction equipment during state-declared water emergencies. Flake and Nancy Sosa, the city’s archivist, were among the witnesses who testified Friday.

“The unforeseen consequences of federal laws and regulations threaten to do something outlaws, economic busts, and the Arizona desert couldn’t: Kill the town too tough to die,” Flake said. Tombstone, population 1,400, is a throwback to the Old West and is famous for the 30-second gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is re-enacted for tourists twice a day.

“Without water, the most precious commodity in the desert, Tombstone will cease to exist,” Sosa said. She told the committee that Tombstone burned to the ground twice before the waterline was built.

CNN will have more on this developing story Saturday.

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Filed under: Arizona • Congress • Courts • Environment • Fire • Flooding • U.S. • Weather
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. zzBottom

    typical – bunch of rich white elites 99%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 9, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
    • TriXen

      You know, as much as I support this town's efforts to rebuild their pipeline, the whole "99%" thing is really getting old. Nobody's listening to you guys...

      June 9, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • biggerdawg

      you're boring.

      June 9, 2012 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
    • jason

      dude have you looked at the demographics on tombstone there my be on rich guy there. Get with your facts that is the trouble with you liberals you think with your heart not with your head

      June 9, 2012 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
    • warsteiner

      Well said but untrue heres a banana for skipping the ebonics , 99 percent comes from where dig bat. Just Tombstone? Get a clue

      June 9, 2012 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
    • euphewl

      For REAL?

      First, you got your percentages backward – the "rich elite" are supposed to be the 1%, the hardworking "regular guys" are supposed to be the 99%.

      Second – how can you call a bunch of guys trying to get water restored to their town – who are so desperate for a solution, every able-bodied person is using shovels to try and repair large-scale damage from a landslide. Sounds like regular guys to me...

      June 9, 2012 at 6:17 am | Report abuse |
    • minerran

      "zzBottom said: typical – bunch of rich white elites 99%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

      Typical hypocritical racist "african american" comment. You say whites are racist but you are exactly as you accuse.

      June 9, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |

    Doing without water is hard on the body!
    Pioneer spirit, fooey.
    Without gov help the place would of been a ghostown years ago.
    Either give it back to original inhabitants, or act like pioneers and use man and animal power

    June 9, 2012 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |

    someone call ted turner

    June 9, 2012 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. dante_thunder

    How come when I read this, I can't help but think that half the states would probably like to splinter off from the U.S. by now?

    June 9, 2012 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
    • homer234

      yeah,like USAーDemocrats and USAーRepublicans・・・・・

      June 9, 2012 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
    • euphewl

      States don't want to splinter off the US – – certainly not.

      We're just trying to get the H-E-double-hockey-stick away from Obama!!!!

      June 9, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
    • evensteven

      Lots of arguing, blaming and polarity, isn't there?

      I think most of us relish having a good argument. If not, why are we all doing it?

      June 9, 2012 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
    • fekt

      as most red states have the lowest incomes and receive the most federal aid and pay the fewest taxes, i wouldn't mind seeing us shed the fat anyway.

      June 9, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    I live only about five miles from the area in question and agree with everything you said. I also have had some personal experience of my own with members of this local branch of the Forest Service, and they are the most bureaucratic and arbitrary waste of air I've ever come across. I'm all for protecting the wilderness but anybody who has followed this story knows that the Forest Service at this point has simply dug in their heels to protect their own authority ... not because it makes environmental sense.

    June 9, 2012 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. warsteiner

    I get so angry about stuff like this if it was oil the government would give them the Army corp of engineers. Water is a god given right since we a like 98 percent water. They are not piping oil thru Caribou birthing grounds and polluting native tribal land but the Forest service will bust their stones for water. This is bureaucratic Bull

    June 9, 2012 at 5:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Anon

    Were they able to fix it? If so, perhaps they didn't need heavy equipment, which might have had a greater negative impact upon the local environment. I wonder if working together as a community brought the town together in terms of community spirit in addition to their shared anger towards the US Forest Service.

    June 9, 2012 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ron

    That pipeline was installed with mule, pick and shovel. Just fix it the same way your grandfathers would have and stop your crying.

    June 9, 2012 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Ya know I see a cliche there in your post.
      "I'm gonna have to 'stop your crying with a pick and shovel, aren't I ? "
      That good? 😉 LOL

      June 9, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. IndianaGreg

    I'm from the Government and I'm here to help.

    June 9, 2012 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  10. Not an Elite

    This is one where the local forest ranger has a stick up her posterior. She could let them in to do the work under forest service supervision, but for whatever reason refuses to do so. She's probably got a bone to pick with someone in the town. I would want to be her trying to buy groceries in Tombstone.

    These folks have had this water line for over 130 years. I'd say that's grandfathered in well enough. Let them fix their dang pipeline!

    June 9, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      I found a couple good posts so far with excellent "expressions" but this one is too dang funny; "This is one where the local forest ranger has a 'stick up her posterior'

      June 9, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • JD

      We spent a wonderful weekend in Tombstone with friends. Have always wanted to go back. SAVE TOMBSTONE!

      June 9, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bob B

    They should just do it with their backs and shovels. Good for them, doing it themselves instead of waiting for the government. More people should do the same thing.

    June 9, 2012 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. WhoKnewIt...

    I commend the people of Tombstone for taking matters in their own hands. They are a hard working group that love their town and have been patient long enough. But, instead of whining about it they are DOING something about it. Seems when your a small town (with few voters) that your wants and needs are easily overlooked. They are very friendly and feel deeply about their town. Tombstone is steeped in history and you can see the pride from the folks that live there.

    June 9, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Vince

    I wonder what Wyatt Earp would have said about all this ?

    June 9, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. Robert Shaperio

    Just another example of big government getting in the way. The only reason the Forest service stamped no on this one was to justify their own existence.

    June 9, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dennis

    I think Virgil & Wyatt would have the situation under control in short order.

    June 9, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
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