National Association Names Johnson Vice Chair of Cyber Committee & Adopts Johnson’s Public Lands Sponsored Resolutions
Long Beach, CA. – The National Association of Counties (NACo) held their Annual Conference this month in Long Beach, California. During the conference, NACo members adopted a new American County Platform, passed resolutions, and announced their 2016/2017 Leadership and Steering Committee Appointments. Supervisor Buster Johnson was named as one of the Vice-Chairs of NACO’s Information Technology Standing Committee, and also had two resolutions adopted as part of NACo’s national American County Platform along with one resolution on Uranium Mining being accepted. According to NACo, their County Platform is their permanent policy documents whereas resolutions must be written and adopted every year. NACo’s IT Standing Committee, originally called NACo’s Cyber Security Task Force, was launched in 2012 as a public/private partnership to protect county government networks and residents from online computer crime. “With today’s advancing technology, it is important that county officials understand the importance of cyber security,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Counties are a crucial resource when it comes to public information and information sharing which makes it so important for counties to ensure the taxpayer’s information is secure and safe,” Johnson continued. Supervisor Johnson is also a member of NACo’s Public Lands Steering Committee and sponsored two resolutions dealing with Public Lands. The first resolution he sponsored was in support of the Historic Routes Preservation Act, which is a bipartisan bill that would provide an administrative means for the federal government to confirm rights-of-way on public lands administered by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. NACo’s National County Platform has always taken a stance on supporting the maintenance and enhancement of public access to public lands. Instead of adopting the resolution, NACo included the language for the resolution in their overall County Platform. “This is a major accomplishment,” Johnson stated. “Not all resolutions end up apart of the overall County platform. By adding into the platform, it shows that the overall voice of counties throughout the nation support preserving our historical right of ways,” Johnson continued. Another resolutions sponsored by Supervisor Johnson, which passed unanimously during the Conference, was in support of uranium activities. In 2012, the Secretary of Interior, withdrew one million acres of the nation’s highest grade uranium ores from mineral entry in Northern Arizona. According to a report by the American Clean Energy Resource Trust, this was a $29 billion hit to local economies in Mohave County and in Southern Utah. “This ban took away much needed jobs from our area. Uranium mining would have brought in nearly 1,078 new jobs to the Arizona strip area with a $40 million annual payroll,” Johnson explained. Included in the NACo platform was also language requiring full coordination with locally affected interests when it came to national monument designations and full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. “Without full funding for PILT, Arizona counties will be forced to shift federal responsibilities to local tax payers or drastically cut essential services such as education, law enforcement, and road maintenance,” Johnson stated. During FY15, Mohave County received roughly … Continue Reading →
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to inform the public that as of Monday the Lake Havasu Wildlife Refuge is under new management. The Wildlife Refuge’s Deputy Manager, Daryl Magnuson, has taken over as acting Manager. “I look forward to working with Mr. Magnuson and hope we can rebuild our relations with the Refuge,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Relations between the Refuge and local government have been estranged over the past few years, and I am hopeful that with new management communication can start to take place again,” Johnson continued. According to Johnson, Linda Miller, the prior Refuge Manager’s, last day was Friday. She has been reassigned to the Yuma office. “Federal, state and local officials along with myself and concerned citizens have been calling for her resignation since she closed off parts of Lake Havasu City waterways under the Refuge jurisdiction over a year ago,” Johnson stated. “The boating restrictions implemented were done so without any communication or notice to local officials or citizens. More than $252.8 million is contributed to Mohave County’s economy through boating recreation on Lake Havasu. No documented evidence was ever presented to prove that these activities were causing any harm to the wildlife or natural preserve of the Refuge,” Johnson explained. “I am hoping with Mr. Magnuson communication between the Refuge and local government can start to take place again,” Johnson said. Mohave County has already begun actively engaging Mr. Magnuson in regards to another issue in the Golden Shores/Topock area. According to Public Works Director Steve Latoski, an Environmental Assessment (EA) that was done for the County will need final approval from the Refuge to remove an existing manmade berm upstream in the Sacramento Wash. Removal of this berm will help to restore the wash to its historical flow path. “The EA report is done and in the USFWS hands for review. We anticipate USFWS concurrence with the EA findings of no significant impact by the end of this year so that the County’s offsite project can proceed concurrent with the Oatman bridge project,” Latoski stated.
Lake Havasu City, AZ –Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson was invited to Washington D.C. this week by the Committee on Natural Resources to testify in support of Congressman Gosar’s Bill H.R. 2663. This legislation, titled the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2015, presents a bipartisan opportunity to expand renewable energy development on public lands, while at the same time maximizing benefits to states and counties. “In large public lands counties of the west, like Mohave County, the costs of providing essential services on public lands can be significant. This legislation establishes a distribution where 25% would be shared with county governments. For counties, revenue sharing is a critical component of this bill,” Supervisor Johnson said during his testimony to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. Johnson testified before the Subcommittee on behalf of himself as Vice Chair of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors, the National Association of Counties (NACo), as Chairman of the QuadState Local Government Authority and as Co-Chair of the Arizona/Utah Economic Development Coalition. H.R. 2663 establishes a new revenue structure which would distribute royalties to affected states, affected counties, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the “Renewable Energy Resource Conservation Fund.” “Sharing royalties with counties will help provide local taxpayers with additional relief from the costs associated with tax-exempt federal land and it will provide the much needed resources we need to provide critical infrastructure and services on public lands,” Johnson explained. A recent University study found that if this bill were enacted Mohave County would receive $519,375 in royalty payments from existing renewable energy projects. Supervisor Johnson has chaired numerous State and National committees focusing on renewable energy development over the years and is well aware of the challenges renewable energy developers face when it comes to developing on public lands. “This legislation creates a straightforward and streamlined permitting process for renewal energy development on federal lands. Simply put, there is no reason for the BLM to take several years to permit a project when our county offices can issue permits in weeks,” Johnson said. Mohave County’s climate and landscape offers some of the highest solar and wind energy potential in the nation. “In public lands counties, the single greatest barrier to project development is the protracted federal permitting process which is simply not an issue on private lands. The streamlining provisions included in the bill will lead to faster turnarounds, and will help create good paying jobs, diversify rural economies, and spur economic growth,” Johnson stated. “I would like to thank Congressman Gosar for his leadership and for the introduction of this much needed legislation,” Supervisor Johnson ended. H.R. 2663 currently has 68 bipartisan cosponsors in the House of Representatives including the entire Arizona Congressional Delegation. To read the full text of the bill please click here: http://gosar.house.gov/sites/gosar.house.gov/files/GOSAR_080_xml_0.pdf
Lake Havasu City, AZ – In Lake Havasu City this past month, hundreds of individuals spoke out against Unisource’s Rate Proposal Case that would have implement demand charges on all residential electric bills. A proposal Supervisor Buster Johnson said could have raised residential bills by more than $30 a month. In response to the overwhelming opposition, Unisource has released a statement that they will not continue to pursue demand charges on non-solar customers. “I want to thank everyone who came out against this proposal. It is obvious that they have heard the voices of Mohave County residents,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. “While Unisource is dropping demand charges for all customers, they are still intending on asking the Corporation Commission for an increase in the base charge fee and to implement demand charges on new solar customers,” Johnson continued. Unisource Energy serves about 90,000 customers in Mohave and Santa Cruz County. In their proposal, they are asking the Arizona Corporation Commission to allow them to raise the customer base charge from the current $10 a month fee to $20. “This ten dollar increase would equal $900,000 more a month for this utility company,” Johnson stated. “We cannot be just satisfied with them dropping the demand charges. This increase is still left in their proposal and is still not justified or warranted. I still encourage people to file opposition against their proposal, and let them know that Mohave County residents do not want any type of unjustified increase,” Johnson continued. While non-solar customers won’t see demand charges implemented, new solar customers will see demand charges if Unisource’s proposal is approved. New solar customers would also see a change in net metering. Currently, UniSource solar customers get paid the full retail rate for excess power their solar panels send back to the grid. The proposal would drop the rate by about half, down to the rate the utility pays to purchase power from large-scale solar arrays. Mohave County’s overwhelming “no” on Unisource’s proposal was also heard by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Both Commissioners Doug Little and Bob Burns wrote letters earlier this month asking the parties involved to provide other options aside from demand charges. “Lake Havasu City is a retirement community for thousands of senior citizens and a second home to several winter visitors from across the U.S. This extra high charge will be almost impossible for residential ratepayers to control,” Supervisor Johnson said to the Commission during testimony earlier this month. Unisource’s revised proposal will still need final approval from the Corporation Commission. A decision is expected this coming June.
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to inform the public of a recent letter sent to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) approving the County’s request to have the Northwest Basin Planning Area listed as a top priority under the State’s current water initiative. “Mohave County has some of the largest groundwater aquifers in the State, and ensuring that the Northwest Basin is a top priority in Arizona’s Strategic Vision for Water Supply is crucial for future sustainability,” Supervisor Johnson stated. Governor Doug Ducey’s Water Initiative for the State involved ADWR identifying and prioritizing 22 planning areas across the State. The Mohave County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to Director Thomas Buschatzke in February asking for the Northwest Basin Planning Area to receive immediate action by the State. ADWR’s reply to the County stated that after review they have determined that the Northwest Basin Planning Area will be included in the first year of work under the Initiative. According to the letter, ADWR staff will begin working on development of a stakeholder list and have the first stakeholder meeting to initiate the Planning Area process this summer. “These meetings will help everyone involved to find ways to refine water supply and demand components and identify strategies to meet future water demands,” Johnson stated. Arizona’s Strategic Vision for Water Supply Sustainability provides a comprehensive water supply and demand analysis for Arizona. Recent studies have identified the potential for a long-term imbalance between available water supplies and projected water demands over the next 100 years if no action is taken. The Strategic Vision creates the framework for the development of potential strategies to address the projected imbalances. It provides context for maximizing the effectiveness of these strategies to address the needs of multiple water users across the State. For more information on the Water Initiative please visit: http://www.azwater.gov/AzDWR/Arizona_Water_Initiative/index.htm
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson submitted opposition today in regards to Unisource Electric’s rate structure case before the Arizona Corporation Commission. If approved, Supervisor Johnson strongly believes residents of Mohave County serviced by Unisource Electric could see their electric bill increase to nearly $30 a month with added demand charges. “Not only is Unisource asking the Corporation Commission to raise the base customer charge from $10 to $20 a month, they are asking them to add a third component to residential bills known as a demand charge,” Supervisor Johnson explained. “By doing this ratepayers will be charged based off their peak hourly energy use instead of only on their overall energy usage every month,” Johnson continued. The case before the Arizona Corporation Commission held hearings in Tucson on Tuesday and is expected to hold an open hearing in Kingman on March 31st. The Commission will make a final decision regarding Unisource’s proposal in June. According to Johnson, demand charges, while a commonplace for commercial and industrial customers, are rare nationwide for residential consumers. “This extra high charge will be almost impossible for residential ratepayers to control unless they go out and spend hundreds of dollars on smart plugs and sensors to monitor activity such as how much energy output a crockpot or coffee maker is producing every hour,” Johnson stated. “Tying residential usage to the highest hourly energy use during a billing period does not make sense,” Johnson continued. In Johnson’s letter to the Commissioners, he recommended that the Corporation Commission reevaluate the cost structure in relationship to alternative energy. “In 2006, the Commission required electrical utilities to obtain 15% of their retail generated energy from renewable resources by 2025,” Johnson explained. The Commission’s 06 ruling also required that the utilities obtain 6% by 2016. “By doing this, the Commission forced electric companies to use solar energy which is one of the most expensive forms of electricity out there right now,” Johnson explained. According to research provided by the US Department of Energy, the cost of solar energy averages around 5.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. With the price of natural gas currently down, traditional electricity averages 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour and nuclear energy averages 2.5 to 3 cents. “The 15% requirement is putting a financial burden on electric companies as they rush to meet this deadline,” Johnson stated. “If the Commission is going to demand that a certain percentage of electricity come from renewable energy, they should let the electric companies use the cheapest form out there which right now is clean nuclear energy. These companies shouldn’t be forced to only choose the most expensive which right now is green energy,” Johnson continued. “On top of that, more folks are turning to solar to generate power as well as other means to save on electrical costs. If the Corporation Commission would relook at their 2006 ruling and lower state’s Renewable Energy Standard and Tarrif requirement, the burden on electrical companies would be lowered resulting in … Continue Reading →
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Congressman Paul Cook from California’s 8th Congressional District introduced HR 4313, the Historic Routes Preservation Act. This bipartisan bill provides an administrative means for the federal government to confirm rights-of-way on public lands administered by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. “This bill has been a long time coming and has taken countless hours of work by our Lobbyist Robert Weidner and Gerry Hiller, the Executive Director of QuadState Local Governments Authority,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. “Robert Weidner and Gerry Hiller did the heavy lifting in DC meeting with Congressional staff and legislators to explain and garner support,” Johnson continued. Supervisor Buster Johnson was instrumental in advocating a bill introduced yesterday in Congress to protect Mohave County’s historic roads and rights of way across federal lands in the county and public lands throughout the west. For years counties, like Mohave, have owned and maintained roads across federal lands only to find out recently that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) maps do not reflect County ownership, control or maintenance. Amazingly, BLM Master Title Plats do not reflect the existence of Route 66, one of America’s treasured landmarks. Supervisor Johnson decided to recommend legislation to include process changes in public lands management which were picked up by our friend across the Colorado River, California Congressman Paul Cook (R) who represents the California Desert Counties. At home, Johnson was key in answering questions raised by Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick as she considered whether to be the lead Democrat promoting the bill in Congress. “I was happy to advocate this proposal to Congresswoman Kirkpatrick and her staff and urge that she sign on to the bill on behalf of counties across Arizona, and I am pleased that what I told her helped resolve her questions,” Johnson explained “As a bipartisan bill, the measure has a much better chance of receiving fair consideration from both sides in Congress,” Johnson added. According to Johnson, HR 4313 creates no mandatory financial obligation for counties. “Counties will have the option to voluntarily use this piece of legislation to benefit them or not,” Johnson stated. “For those who do take advantage of this legislation, the burden of proof to have a right-of-way recognized under this bill will be with the governmental unit that files and administrative costs to the federal government should be minimal. The savings seen by counties will far outweigh any administrative costs,” Johnson continued. “The fact is that if this bill were the law of the land, counties like Mohave would save millions and the BLM would have to recognize that roads that are actually in existence by any normal measure of that standard, do in fact, exist and rightfully belong to the counties” Johnson concluded. To read the entire context of HR 4313 please click here: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114hr4313ih/pdf/BILLS-114hr4313ih.pdf HR 4313 has been assigned to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Lake Havasu City, AZ – Supervisor Buster Johnson would like to make the public aware that the Treasurer’s Office has decided not to open the two satellite offices in Lake Havasu and Bullhead City as previously planned for collection of tax payments. Mohave County Attorney Bill Ekstrom advised Treasurer Cindy Cox that not accepting cash payments at the satellite offices was a violation of 1 U.S. Code § 5103 that states that United States coins and currency are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. “Cash payments have been accepted in the past with only one staff personnel at each location,” Supervisor Johnson said. According to Treasurer Cox, an additional $200,000 of needed security and personnel would be needed at each satellite office before cash payments could be allowed. “While different options were laid out for ways residents could still pay their tax payment in person without having to drive to Kingman or mail it in, the Treasurer still decided to shut down both locations for the time being,” Johnson continued. According to Johnson, there are solutions out there that should be looked in to. “We are here to serve the people, and if they want to pay their property tax bill in person they should be allowed to,” Johnson stated. “An example of a no cost solution for county taxpayers is to mirror what Maricopa County Treasurer’s Office has done for over 10 years and that is partner with a bank branch,” Johnson suggested. “Maricopa County partners with Chase Bank to allow constituents who want to pay with a check the option of going to any Chase branch in the state with a check and their tax payment coupon. With Chase’s system, the bank is able to directly import the tax payer’s data and payment information to the Maricopa County Treasurer’s Office electronically with very little paperwork and no risk of information getting lost in the mail,” Johnson explained. “They have partnered with Chase specifically for the past five years with no cost to county taxpayers. This is just one example of a solution for local residents. We need to be looking for solutions not just closing the doors,” Johnson continued. Johnson suggested a low cost solution the Treasurer could consider is to partner with another county department already located in Lake Havasu and Bullhead. “The Treasurer could agree to pay half of an employee’s salary and benefits from that department, and along with that employee’s everyday duties, they could also be available to constituents year round who want to pay their taxes in person,” Johnson said. Supervisor Johnson stated that prior to 2014 his office collected payments year round from residents who wanted to pay with cash or money order. “I have never heard of an issue arising regarding security and the collection of tax payments at the satellite offices,” Johnson said. “My office gladly accepted the payments until we were told we were no longer allowed to,” Johnson continued. Johnson also stated that a … Continue Reading →
Cyber Security Tip of the Day For National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM): Protect online accounts with a different password for each. Passwords need at least eight characters, letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using any part of your name, phone number or birth date. Be careful with email auto-complete. This is an email feature that automatically completes a name for you when you begin typing it in the TO field. However, your email client can easily complete the wrong name for you. If you are emailing anything sensitive, always be sure to check the TO field a second time before hitting the send button. Make sure you have anti-virus software installed on your computer and that it is automatically updating. However, keep in mind that no anti-virus can catch all malware; your computer can still be infected. That is why it’s so important you use common sense and be wary of any messages that seem odd or suspicious. Rogue software or “scareware” is fake antivirus or security software. Bad guys usually try to get you to install it by generating a pop-up window as you surf the web. The “updates” or “alerts” in the pop-up windows call for you to take some sort of action, such as clicking to install the software, accept recommended updates, or remove unwanted viruses or spyware. When you click, the rogue security software downloads to your computer. It takes only a few seconds to secure your computer and to help protect it from unauthorized access. Lock down your computer every time you leave your desk. If you’re using a windows computer, press Ctrl–Alt—Delete before you walk away! On a Mac? Try Control–Shift– Power Banking Trojans can use a malicious webpage to ask you for your cell phone number and then attempt to install a malicious app that can bypasses security systems. Your bank will not distribute apps in this way. It is always recommended that folks download apps from the official app store and never through unknown text messages or websites. Before submitting your credit card number when shopping online, always look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar to be sure your information is secure during transmissions and make sure “https” appears in the website’s address bar. The “s” stands for “secure” indicating that communications are encrypted. USB drives, Flash Memory Cards, CD-ROMs, and other external devices can be infected with viruses and malware. Always make sure to scan them using virus scan software before opening files on them, especially if those files were not put on the device by yourself. Email is the gateway to almost every other account a user may have. When someone loses or forgets an account password, the reset is sent to his or her email. Cyber security experts suggests email users set up multi-factor authentication, which means more than just a password is required for access; a code may be sent via text message that a user must also input for access, for example. It’s something … Continue Reading →
La Paz County and the Arizona Association of Counties Files Amicus Brief In Support of Mohave County’s Fight for Planet Ranch Water Rights
Lake Havasu City, AZ –La Paz County along with the Arizona Association of Counties (AACo) have filed a joint amicus brief with the Arizona Supreme Court in support of Mohave County’s standing in the Planet Ranch water rights case. AACo represents Arizona’s 15 counties across the state and over 331 elected officials. “I want to sincerely thank AACo and La Paz County in supporting our standing on this issue. Their support shows the importance of Arizona counties being allowed to stand up and participate in matters important to their jurisdiction,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated. In AACo and La Paz County’s joint amicus brief, they explained the importance of Arizona counties being allowed to participate in matters pertaining to the use, consumption, conservation and transfer of water resources within their jurisdiction. One of Mohave County’s argument against the sever and transfer of water rights at Planet Ranch was that they were not involved in settlement agreements nor notified in a timely matter. “Mohave County’s concerns were never heard and we were completely left out of negotiations when it came to the drafting of the Bill Williams River Water Settlement Act,” Johnson stated. “This amicus brief shows support of our standing from an outside organization that does not have a direct relation to this case. By AACo filing this brief, it gives Mohave County a stronger voice,” Johnson continued. Maricopa Superior Court Judge, Crane McClennen, ruled back in June that Mohave County has the right to object to Freeport McMoRan’s proposed water rights transfers within its jurisdiction on behalf of its constituents. According to Johnson, the water rights transfer would take about 10,000 acre feet of water away from Mohave County citizens. “This large amount of water amounts to roughly 3.26 billion gallons which is enough to provide water to well over 20,000 homes,” Johnson said. Freeport filed an appeal in regards to Judge McClennen’s ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court who agreed to hear the case in the beginning of this month. The Supreme Court will now decide if they will accept the amicus brief into the final record.