Volume 14 Issue 1 January AZ

An Inside Look at a Consequential Case

By Kris Polly

The eventual decision in the Supreme Court case Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, known as Sackett II, will affect water managers nationwide.

That’s why I am excited to share this month’s cover interview with Damien Schiff, the senior attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation who argued on behalf of the Sackett family before the Supreme Court. The interview was conducted by Patrick Sigl, a principal managing attorney at the Salt River Project who will be familiar to many of our readers.

We are also honored to feature an interview with Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson about the importance of irrigation to Arkansas—the nation’s number 1 rice producer—and the need to think strategically about future water supplies in the face of competing demands for water and declining groundwater levels. We then speak with two water professionals who are working hard to do just that through major water infrastructure projects. Edward Swaim, the executive director of the Bayou Meto Water Management District, tells us about progress on the Bayou Meto Irrigation Project, which will distribute water from the Arkansas River to about 268,000 acres of farmland, and Dennis Carman, the director and chief engineer of the White River Irrigation District, tells us about the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project, which will supply water to farmers from the White River. We also talk to Kenneth Graves, the chairman of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, about the importance of the irrigated crop for Arkansas’s economy.

Next, we interview Kirk Byles, the CEO of FreeWave Technologies, about his company’s radio devices and sensor products, which enable an entire smart agriculture ecosystem, and about the company’s new partnership with center-pivot manufacturer Reinke.

Dawnie and Justin Stewart are Arizona farmers with roots in the region going back to the 1920s. Recently, however, urban sprawl has led them to shift their Gilbert-area operations farther away from the greater Phoenix metro area and to transition their property in Gilbert to a master-planned community. Our interview with them provides a fascinating look at the intersection of water, agriculture, and urban development.

American Leak Detection’s high-density polyethylene irrigation ditch liner is a lightweight, robust, man-portable lining system that is easier to install than concrete and pipe, conserves water, and provides years of service while reducing annual maintenance costs. We speak with Chief Technical Officer Kenneth Suazo about the system’s genesis and potential.

As any western water manager knows, the issues surrounding government regulation and water resources may be complex, but they are far from abstract. They directly touch on the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people. I hope you enjoy the important stories this first issue of 2023 contains—particularly our detailed inside look into the Sackett II case.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.