Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 5, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Drought Outlook


  • The storms have caused runoff from the Salt River Project's water shed to prompt the release of water down the normally dry Salt River. It's now flowing through Tempe Town Lake. We'll have an update on our reservoir system.
Guests:
  • Tony Haffer - meteorologist, National Weather Service - Phoenix office
  • Charlie Ester - Manager, Water Resource Operations, SRP
  • Andrew Thomas - Maricopa County Attorney


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," rain, hail, even tornado warnings. Is it a fluke or will it be a wetter winter for the Valley? We'll look at the big picture.

>>> Michael Grant:
And the storms have caused runoff from the Salt River Project's water shed to prompt the release of water down the normally dry Salt River. It's now flowing through Tempe Town Lake. We'll have an update on our reservoir system.

>>> Michael Grant:
Plus, he is the newly elected Maricopa County Attorney. Find out what Andrew Thomas has in store as the chief prosecuting officer for the County. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Those stories in a moment. First, the search has begun again for a new Director of the Department of Public Safety. In November, Governor Janet Napolitano had named current U.S. Marshal David Gonzales to take over the job. Gonzales has now withdrawn his name from consideration, citing personal reasons. The Governor is appointing a selection committee to conduct the nationwide search.

>>> Michael Grant:
Storms over the past couple of weeks have brought us some serious consequences, at least four deaths. People have had to evacuate their homes because of swollen waterways. Significant precipitation has caused Salt River Project to release water down the Salt River. Is the current weather an indication that we will be getting above-normal rainfall this season? Here now to talk about the weather, Tony Haffer, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Phoenix. Also here to talk about the impact of the weather on our reservoir system and the drought is Charlie Ester, manager of SRP's Water Resource Operations. Gentlemen, good to see both you again.

>> Charlie Ester:
Great to be here, Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, let me start with the big picture. What's going on here?

>> Tony Haffer:
It's certainly been a wonderful page from the past 9 years or so where we've seen lots of rain here and snow just recently. Mother Nature has kind of gotten us into a wet pattern and we're loving every bit of it.

>> Michael Grant:
Last week's pattern seemed different than a lot of the winter storms that we get. They come from the west, they come from Los Angeles, that kind of thing. This one was coming from the south and the west. Is that partially explain why it was so wet?

>> Tony Haffer:
It sure does. Typically when we see our storms come in from more of a westerly direction, they don't have the opportunity to tap the moisture from the subtropics. By taking a more southerly pass and coming over San Diego and south of San Diego, they are able to bring that rich moisture from the tropics. As the storm comes over Arizona it drops a good bit of the moisture that it got from the subtropics and hence, lots of rain and snow.

>> Michael Grant:
I seem to recall several months ago when last we chatted, I was trying to talk you into that this was going to be a wet winter, and you were resisting it.

>> Tony Haffer:
Absolutely.

>> Michael Grant:
Have you now come over to my side?

>> Tony Haffer:
How much do you want to pay? Well, when we last met, there was not really any indication in the Pacific Ocean of an El Niņo going on. We do have a rather weak El Niņo going on. Generally speaking, El Niņos are good for the southern United States and the southwest as well. We're hoping that the wet rainfall we've seen is going to continue. In fact, that's what the National Weather Service projections are indicating, that there is a greater than normal chance for above-normal precipitation in Arizona from now through March.

>> Michael Grant:
Incidentally, we've got graphics to illustrate that and we'll do that in a second. Charlie let me pull you in here in terms of putting this in some perspective. You were telling me that actually, we are now ahead of 1993 in terms of precipitation. '93 was the storm that brought down the bridge that was under construction in Tempe.

>> Charlie Ester:
'93 was the wettest year since 1905 in Arizona. We are now well ahead of that, about 150\% ahead of 1993. Now, that doesn't mean that trend is going to continue, but if it were to continue, we would be looking at a lot of water to deal with this spring.

>> Michael Grant:
And we are rolling that 1993 video of the bridge collapse right now. Charlie, do you recall how much water was going through the river at that point in time in terms of CFS?

>> Charlie Ester:
I certainly do. The bridge collapse when had we increased it to 63,000 cubic feet per second. The release peaked at 30,000 feet. We've been able to manage these events with relatively small amounts of water releases.

>> Michael Grant:
Now, the question you always get is hold it, we're in the middle of a 9-year drought. We've heard the statistics for a long time from the project about how low the reservoir levels are. You get one good storm and all of a sudden you guys are ripping down the Salt River with 20,000 to 30,000 feet per second. Why?

>> Charlie Ester:
This is our worst nightmare come true. Roosevelt Lake is close to empty because of the 9-year drought that we're in and we get a series of storms that focus on the Verde watershed, produce a lot of runoff into our two smallest reservoirs, they fill to capacity and we have no other choice but to release that water. At the same time, Roosevelt, with a huge storage capacity has stores over 07\% of our total water supply, it's sitting at 30\% right now. It has gained though in the last week, it's up to 40\%.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, that weather pattern we were talking about coming from the south and the west, unfortunately, it was funneled more toward the Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff area which is, either the Verde or the little Colorado watershed and not the Salt River watershed.

>> Tony Haffer:
That's right. As Charlie said, beggars can't be choosers in a nine-year drought it's nice to get anything. Mother Nature had it in for the western half of Arizona, if you will, on these particular storms. Although this, last storm we just had, Monday and Tuesday, did show more of a tendency to give us precipitation further east than I -- and I think there was a fair amount of runoff into the Roosevelt lake as far as it goes.

>> Michael Grant:
You were telling me that the snow pack, in terms of the Salt River watershed, it's primarily the White Mountain area, is it not?

>> Charlie Ester:
It's from the Payson area all the way east to the White Mountains.

>> Michael Grant:
You gave me statistics on the snow levels up in that area.

>> Charlie Ester:
Yes, one of our snow tell sites at Promontory Point, a high point on the rim, it has 51 inches of snow on the ground with 15 inches of water. So there is a fair amount there. If you look at the entire Salt River watershed we've gone from near normal a week ago to almost 200\% of normal. The trend is really good. The fear is that we'll get another of these warm tropical storms that Tony has been talking about and rain that snow off, and that causes huge peak flows. If it's on the salt right now, we'll be able to absorb it into Roosevelt Lake and store that. If it comes on the Verde, we'll be looking at much higher releases than we've seen.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, let me go back to that El Niņo point, because I think we have some graphics here which you can describe. We now have a weak El Niņo in the Pacific; right? This is January of '97, why don't you explain it.

>> Tony Haffer:
Typically, this is a cross-section of the Pacific Ocean along the equator. In a typically normal year, if you will, the warmer water is on the left-hand part of the screen. During an El Niņo year, the warm water will progress from left to right on the screen to the West Coast of Mexico and off the coast of Peru as we see in this particular picture here. And you say what does that really mean? It's like looking at the pot on the stove. As you begin to raise the temperature of the water, you see more steam and water vapor go off the top of the pot. So by having more moisture available in the eastern Pacific, the storms that we see every winter have a real significant source of more moisture to tap and to bring to the southern half of the United States.

>> Michael Grant:
This is March of '98. The red area being the warmer water, and what we can obviously see the United States there in the background, but that's the warm water off the coast of Peru and Mexico?

>> Tony Haffer:
Right. And then the storms that normally come along the West Coast are able to tap into a very rich and moist subtropical jet stream and bring that moisture across to the southwest and generally speaking across the southern United States in general.

>> Michael Grant:
When you get that low pressure system that we were talking about, it naturally swirls past and circulates over at least some of that water to then bring it up our way?

>> Tony Haffer:
Exactly correct.

>> Michael Grant: Okay. Give us the statistics right now, Charlie, on -- obviously the Verde lake system is full?

>> Charlie Ester:
Actually it's not full. We've gotten enough water.

>> Michael Grant:
You are trying not to have it full.

>> Charlie Ester:
We're trying not to have it full because we're expecting more storms. The only way to reduce the peak flow through the valley is to have some storage space available so we can shave that peak off and store it. The Verde is 70\% full right now. On the salt side we're more full and the system is just shy of 50\% full. We've come up close to 10\% over the last week, hopefully that trend will continue.

>> Michael Grant:
You mentioned 51 inches at Promontory Point. Place that in some context for us. What is that trend? Is it possible to say okay that would be 2\% more when it melts? I mean, can you do that kind of thing?

>> Charlie Ester:
Sure, I'm really optimistic about the runoff potential this spring, because we've had a really wet fall. We've had wet ground that we covered up with snow. The yield will be much higher than normal. To put that into perspective, last year when our snow pack melted, the creeks didn't even come up. We saw no increase in runoff when the snow melted. This year, we should see a pretty strong yield and I would think, you know, 35, 40, 50\% of the snow pack that's on the ground, assuming it melts in a nice regular fashion, should produce some runoff.

>> Michael Grant:
There have also obviously been a lot of concerns about the Colorado River system as well. Is some of this weather helping the Colorado River system out as well or not?

>> Charlie Ester:
You know, actually it's not as promising as one would think. These storms have really spent themselves over Arizona and Utah, and by the time they've gotten into most of the upper Colorado basin, they are struggling to have normal conditions right now. Now, hopefully as we get into the prime time, which is January, February and March for these storms, maybe it'll have enough energy that they'll be able to hit the Colorado basin as well. Up until now, it's really been an Arizona and Utah affair.

>> Michael Grant:
All right, let's retract our focus a little bit. We've got two storms coming in, we think, here in the next five days or so?

>> Tony Haffer:
Yeah, sure looks like it. Probably the first one will begin to affect the valley late Friday and linger into part of Saturday, but what the charts are saying early this afternoon are that there was a hum dinger of a storm poised to come in sometime late Monday and Tuesday, which could bring with it warm weather, preceding the rain, and as Charlie said earlier, we could see warm weather begin to melt the snow. If we get rain on top of that, we could see interesting runoff.

>> Michael Grant:
Would we expect the same kind of violence, Tony with these storms? Yesterday we had tornado warnings, hail, and winds. Are these calmer storms or not?

>> Tony Haffer:
Calmer is a good word. The first storm compared to what we've seen is going to be quite meager. Hopefully it will produce some moisture. The second storm, hard to say right now. As far as the severe weather, the hail and the tornadoes, it doesn't look like it right now, but in terms of moisture potential, both in terms of rain and snow, it has promise.

>> Michael Grant:
All right. Let me ask each -- I mean we've obviously been speaking fairly optimistic in terms of the balance of the winter period. Is that Charlie, the way you see it?

>> Charlie Ester:
Well, we've been in this wet pattern since October, and we've seen a couple of breaks. Each time there's been a break it's come back to a wet pattern. We're quite optimistic that we'll stay in that. In a week or so, we'll have a couple of weeks of a break, but I suspect in February it's going to come back quite strong.

>> Michael Grant:
January, February, and March, Tony? What do you think?

>> Tony Haffer:
Looking real good, as Charlie said. I agree there'll be a break in the pattern probably for a week, ten days, maybe two weeks, and then back to the wet flow. As we were saying, typically later in the winter is when El Niņo is GINNED up that warm water is on the west coast of Peru and has the potential to give us rich tropical moisture that we like to see. Stay tuned.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is that March is normally the wettest of the months. Is that -- am I somewhere in the ballpark?

>> Tony Haffer:
Well, yeah, you sure are. The first three months are the key months of the year. March typically can go either way depending on when Mother Nature decides to shut off the moisture.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, I like this conversation a lot better than our last one. Tony Haffer, thank you. Charlie Ester, SRP, appreciates the information.

>> Michael Grant:
Maricopa County is the fifth largest prosecutorial office in the United States. And a newly elected chief prosecuting officer was sworn in on Monday. Andrew Thomas is a noted author and leading authority on the criminal justice system. He joins us in just a moment to talk about his vision and priorities as he takes office. First, Merry Lucero has a brief look at the county attorney's office.

>> Reporter Merry Lucero:
The Maricopa County attorney's office has gained some national recognition, prosecuting some high profile cases, such as AZSCAM, the Catholic church investigation, Bishop Thomas O'Brien's leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and the Scott Philator sleep walking murder. The office prosecutes more than 40,000 criminal cases each year, has 15 specialized divisions with over 900 attorneys, investigators, administrators, paralegals, victim advocates and support staff. The Maricopa County attorney employs more than 300 prosecutors who represent Arizona in felony cases. Some specialized areas of prosecution include computer and Internet crimes, deadly weapons, family violence, hate crimes, homicide, identity theft, sexual offenses, and stalking.

>> Luis Gonzales:
Ever dream of being a World Series champ, an astronaut, or fashion designer, you can reach those dreams if you don't let drugs get in the way.

>> Reporter Merry Lucero:
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office provides victims services and community based programs, such as drugfreeAZ.

>> Michael Grant:
Joining me now is Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Andrew, good to see you again.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Good to see you Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Congratulations.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Thank you very much.

>> Michael Grant:
Sworn in on Monday. Was it everything you would hope it would be?

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was. A little known fact, I was sworn in a couple of weeks before that because you become county attorney at the stroke of midnight on New Year's. So I ended up becoming county attorney at a friend's house at a New Year's party, which was kind of interesting, but they have a formal swearing in which they had done Monday, and it was an honor to be a part of that.

>> Michael Grant:
That's interesting.

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was something I didn't know, so for your viewing pleasure.

>> Michael Grant:
Is that peculiar to the office of the county attorney or is that all county offices?

>> Andrew Thomas:
It's all county offices.

>> Michael Grant:
It's a darned inconvenient time.

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was actually a very festive time in my case.

>> Michael Grant:
I'm going to pepper you with questions on a variety of subjects. Why don't I ask you for how do you going into the office in the first week, people talk about the first 100 days, the first of the year. I mean, what have you set for yourself as priorities or objectives?

>> Andrew Thomas:
What we're going to pursue the issues and priorities that I talked about in the campaign and fulfilling the pledges that I made to the people of Maricopa County in running. I want to see violent and serious offenders taken out of our society for longer periods of time. I want to see them locked up for longer periods of time. That will have an effect, particularly with repeat offenders on the crime rates in our county. We're in the process of reviewing the plea policy so we can have tougher plea offers on the more trials ultimately; that I think will result in tougher sentences. We're going to work with the courts and make sure that there is an orderly process in doing that, but that's going to be one of my top priorities. Auto theft and identity thefts are tremendous problems in Maricopa County. We still have the highest identity theft rate in the nation in identity theft.

>> Michael Grant:
Is there an explanation for that, why identity theft should be so high here in contrast to Chicago, San Francisco, wherever?

>> Andrew Thomas:
There is a number of factors that interplay. I dent at this time theft tends to be tied to the meth trade, methamphetamines, which has become, just as crack had a tremendous effect on the inner city in the '80s and '90s, meth has become the drug of choice for really the white underclass, and that is tied, often to identity theft, people are stealing people's identities in order to finance drug habits. We have a younger population in Arizona than we have in some other states. There are a number of facts that interplay. People respond to incentives and punishment. We need to hold people who commit this crime in particular accountable. We need to penalize them more severely and we need to break up the clusters of people who are basically trafficking in identities and that's going to be one of our top priorities, putting together legislation and that's going to be a big push for us.

>> Michael Grant:
As you know, there are, however, a lot of thoughtful people, who think it's time to revisit mandatory sentencing laws and once again give judges more discretion, not necessarily to give lighter sentences, but in the belief that a mandatory sentence sometimes does not match the circumstances or for that matter the heinousness crime committed. What do you think about mandatory sentencing?

>> Andrew Thomas:
I support mandatory sentencing. It was imposed to reaction to perception that at times judges were not willing to impose the penalties for crimes that the people thought were appropriate, and the best way to get uniformity and to make sure that people are being deterred from committing crimes is for them to know they are going to receive a certain punishment if they commit them, and I understand the concern, the fiscal concerns about our prisons and our jails and I'm a taxpayer like everybody else, but I do think, number one, that the main responsibility of government is to allow law abiding people to live their lives in peace and security from criminals. That needs to be a top budget priority. I also believe, number two, that if we're going to look at this issue of mandatory sentencing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with having a conversation particularly about if we're going to get tougher in certain areas, do we necessarily send people to prison, are there other alternatives --

>> Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

>> Andrew Thomas:
-- there is nothing wrong with having that conversation, but repealing or revoking mandatory sentencing, I think, would be a step in the wrong direction and a big step in the wrong direction.

>> Michael Grant:
Really, with mandatory sentencing, all you did was give prosecutors a larger club. They can come after you with a variety of charges, with some fierce mandatory penalties associated and I think a pretty good point can be made, do you want that kind of power in the hands of an independent judge or in the hands of a party prosecutor?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Arguably I'm biased given that I'm the prosecutor in that equation.

>> Michael Grant:
I understand.

>> Andrew Thomas:
We have a system of mandatory sentencing that does give that tool to prosecutors. I think it's working. The bottom line is our crime rates have gone down significantly for the last 10 years as a result of the incarceration rates tripling in this country. That is an expensive proposition, I will grant you that. However, it is far less expensive than letting repeat or violent offenders roam our streets because we're trying to save money.

>> Michael Grant:
By other theories, they are saying the baby boomers are simply getting older and too tired to commit crime.

>> Andrew Thomas:
No, because their children are coming of age. Actually, we've had a boom in the teenagers over the last 10 years. There were predictions 10 years ago and I was one who joined the fears that there would be a boom in our crime rate that never materialized. I'm convinced it's because the incarceration rates were going up at the same time, and that served to send a message to potential criminals.

>> Michael Grant:
Seems to me that one of the most difficult prosecutorial decisions that a county attorney faces is the situation where you have a child drowning and you have a moment, maybe several moments of parental neglect or inattention. The child dies. Obviously there are different circumstances that -- and oftentimes more egregious circumstances than moments of inattention. Do you approach that particular issue with any particular mindset?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Those cases really have to be judged on the facts. They have to be reviewed individually for the reasons that you just discussed. There are occasions in which there is a momentary lack of attention that leads to a death. There are other times when the facts are far more egregious. You have a parent who is strung out on crack or something like that. You have to review those, I think, one by one individually and that's what the office does, and that's what we'll continue to do.

>> Michael Grant:
So you don't see it as approaching it from the standpoint of sending a message, necessarily, to the next parent, you evaluate the circumstances based upon whatever those circumstances were?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Yes, and you have to, just from the standpoint of making sure that the punishment fits the crime, and for that matter, whether there is even a crime. Sometimes it's just a tragic mistake. It's a momentary thing, but other times, it is neglect that leads to a death, and that's why it has to be done on a case by case basis.

>> Michael Grant:
Sting operations. Would Andrew Thomas have done AZSCAM?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Well, I think the fruit of AZSCAM certainly justified the effort that was put into it, and I think Rick Romley in a number of respects in his career did have some commendable milestones in what he did. You always have to be careful when you are dealing with a political process, simply because you don't unfairly target people because it's more likely to make the headlines.

>> Michael Grant:
That's the issue that goes on here, as you know. Is government actually inducing the crime, or is it simply making available the opportunity for a crime for a person otherwise predisposed to commit one?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Right. That ultimately is for the jury to decide, whether somebody was induced. I think, again, in that case, in particular, with AZSCAM, you had -- it was a very effective operation, and I think Rick Romley is to be commended for doing that. Certainly if I were ever made aware that there was corruption of any sort occurring and I had the jurisdiction to do something about it, I would, I don't care who the political actors are. That's the bottom line for that office is that justice needs to be blind.

>> Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. How are the relations between the county attorney's office and the county Sheriff's Office? They have been a little strained because of the prostitution sting.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Yes, among other things. I think they are going well. I met with Sheriff Joe Arpaio before taking office as well as some of his aides. We had a good, frank discussion. We shared concerns and we shared our perspective on things. I think things are off to a good start.

>> Michael Grant:
"Frank" is sometimes a buzz-word for brutal, but I won't push it because we're out of time. Andrew Thomas, best of luck in your new assignment.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Thank you very much.

>> Michael Grant:
We appreciate it.

>>> Michael Grant:
For links related to tonight's program, to see transcripts of "Horizon" and find out about upcoming topics, visit our web site. That address is www.azpbs.org, click "Horizon" and follow the links.

>>> Michael Grant:
And tomorrow, Governor Janet Napolitano joins us on "Horizon." You send us a question for the Governor via E-mail at horizon@asu.edu. Here is a look at what the Governor will discuss.

>> Reporter Mike Sauceda:
Governor Janet Napolitano with wants to rush ahead with a proposal being pushed by conservative Republicans, a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The state is in the midst of the implementation of Proposition 200 and Arizona's healthcare program for the poor is facing financial problems of its own. That's Thursday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
And tomorrow, following "Horizon," stay tuned for "Horizonte." Then on Friday, our panel of journalists looks back at the year 2004 and makes predictions for 2005. Thank you for being here on this Wednesday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one, good night.

Maricopa County Attorney


  • He is the newly elected Maricopa County Attorney. Find out what Andrew Thomas has in store as the chief prosecuting officer for the County.
Guests:
  • Tony Haffer - meteorologist, National Weather Service - Phoenix office
  • Charlie Ester - Manager, Water Resource Operations, SRP
  • Andrew Thomas - Maricopa County Attorney


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," rain, hail, even tornado warnings. Is it a fluke or will it be a wetter winter for the Valley? We'll look at the big picture.

>>> Michael Grant:
And the storms have caused runoff from the Salt River Project's water shed to prompt the release of water down the normally dry Salt River. It's now flowing through Tempe Town Lake. We'll have an update on our reservoir system.

>>> Michael Grant:
Plus, he is the newly elected Maricopa County Attorney. Find out what Andrew Thomas has in store as the chief prosecuting officer for the County. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Those stories in a moment. First, the search has begun again for a new Director of the Department of Public Safety. In November, Governor Janet Napolitano had named current U.S. Marshal David Gonzales to take over the job. Gonzales has now withdrawn his name from consideration, citing personal reasons. The Governor is appointing a selection committee to conduct the nationwide search.

>>> Michael Grant:
Storms over the past couple of weeks have brought us some serious consequences, at least four deaths. People have had to evacuate their homes because of swollen waterways. Significant precipitation has caused Salt River Project to release water down the Salt River. Is the current weather an indication that we will be getting above-normal rainfall this season? Here now to talk about the weather, Tony Haffer, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Phoenix. Also here to talk about the impact of the weather on our reservoir system and the drought is Charlie Ester, manager of SRP's Water Resource Operations. Gentlemen, good to see both you again.

>> Charlie Ester:
Great to be here, Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, let me start with the big picture. What's going on here?

>> Tony Haffer:
It's certainly been a wonderful page from the past 9 years or so where we've seen lots of rain here and snow just recently. Mother Nature has kind of gotten us into a wet pattern and we're loving every bit of it.

>> Michael Grant:
Last week's pattern seemed different than a lot of the winter storms that we get. They come from the west, they come from Los Angeles, that kind of thing. This one was coming from the south and the west. Is that partially explain why it was so wet?

>> Tony Haffer:
It sure does. Typically when we see our storms come in from more of a westerly direction, they don't have the opportunity to tap the moisture from the subtropics. By taking a more southerly pass and coming over San Diego and south of San Diego, they are able to bring that rich moisture from the tropics. As the storm comes over Arizona it drops a good bit of the moisture that it got from the subtropics and hence, lots of rain and snow.

>> Michael Grant:
I seem to recall several months ago when last we chatted, I was trying to talk you into that this was going to be a wet winter, and you were resisting it.

>> Tony Haffer:
Absolutely.

>> Michael Grant:
Have you now come over to my side?

>> Tony Haffer:
How much do you want to pay? Well, when we last met, there was not really any indication in the Pacific Ocean of an El Niņo going on. We do have a rather weak El Niņo going on. Generally speaking, El Niņos are good for the southern United States and the southwest as well. We're hoping that the wet rainfall we've seen is going to continue. In fact, that's what the National Weather Service projections are indicating, that there is a greater than normal chance for above-normal precipitation in Arizona from now through March.

>> Michael Grant:
Incidentally, we've got graphics to illustrate that and we'll do that in a second. Charlie let me pull you in here in terms of putting this in some perspective. You were telling me that actually, we are now ahead of 1993 in terms of precipitation. '93 was the storm that brought down the bridge that was under construction in Tempe.

>> Charlie Ester:
'93 was the wettest year since 1905 in Arizona. We are now well ahead of that, about 150\% ahead of 1993. Now, that doesn't mean that trend is going to continue, but if it were to continue, we would be looking at a lot of water to deal with this spring.

>> Michael Grant:
And we are rolling that 1993 video of the bridge collapse right now. Charlie, do you recall how much water was going through the river at that point in time in terms of CFS?

>> Charlie Ester:
I certainly do. The bridge collapse when had we increased it to 63,000 cubic feet per second. The release peaked at 30,000 feet. We've been able to manage these events with relatively small amounts of water releases.

>> Michael Grant:
Now, the question you always get is hold it, we're in the middle of a 9-year drought. We've heard the statistics for a long time from the project about how low the reservoir levels are. You get one good storm and all of a sudden you guys are ripping down the Salt River with 20,000 to 30,000 feet per second. Why?

>> Charlie Ester:
This is our worst nightmare come true. Roosevelt Lake is close to empty because of the 9-year drought that we're in and we get a series of storms that focus on the Verde watershed, produce a lot of runoff into our two smallest reservoirs, they fill to capacity and we have no other choice but to release that water. At the same time, Roosevelt, with a huge storage capacity has stores over 07\% of our total water supply, it's sitting at 30\% right now. It has gained though in the last week, it's up to 40\%.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, that weather pattern we were talking about coming from the south and the west, unfortunately, it was funneled more toward the Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff area which is, either the Verde or the little Colorado watershed and not the Salt River watershed.

>> Tony Haffer:
That's right. As Charlie said, beggars can't be choosers in a nine-year drought it's nice to get anything. Mother Nature had it in for the western half of Arizona, if you will, on these particular storms. Although this, last storm we just had, Monday and Tuesday, did show more of a tendency to give us precipitation further east than I -- and I think there was a fair amount of runoff into the Roosevelt lake as far as it goes.

>> Michael Grant:
You were telling me that the snow pack, in terms of the Salt River watershed, it's primarily the White Mountain area, is it not?

>> Charlie Ester:
It's from the Payson area all the way east to the White Mountains.

>> Michael Grant:
You gave me statistics on the snow levels up in that area.

>> Charlie Ester:
Yes, one of our snow tell sites at Promontory Point, a high point on the rim, it has 51 inches of snow on the ground with 15 inches of water. So there is a fair amount there. If you look at the entire Salt River watershed we've gone from near normal a week ago to almost 200\% of normal. The trend is really good. The fear is that we'll get another of these warm tropical storms that Tony has been talking about and rain that snow off, and that causes huge peak flows. If it's on the salt right now, we'll be able to absorb it into Roosevelt Lake and store that. If it comes on the Verde, we'll be looking at much higher releases than we've seen.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, let me go back to that El Niņo point, because I think we have some graphics here which you can describe. We now have a weak El Niņo in the Pacific; right? This is January of '97, why don't you explain it.

>> Tony Haffer:
Typically, this is a cross-section of the Pacific Ocean along the equator. In a typically normal year, if you will, the warmer water is on the left-hand part of the screen. During an El Niņo year, the warm water will progress from left to right on the screen to the West Coast of Mexico and off the coast of Peru as we see in this particular picture here. And you say what does that really mean? It's like looking at the pot on the stove. As you begin to raise the temperature of the water, you see more steam and water vapor go off the top of the pot. So by having more moisture available in the eastern Pacific, the storms that we see every winter have a real significant source of more moisture to tap and to bring to the southern half of the United States.

>> Michael Grant:
This is March of '98. The red area being the warmer water, and what we can obviously see the United States there in the background, but that's the warm water off the coast of Peru and Mexico?

>> Tony Haffer:
Right. And then the storms that normally come along the West Coast are able to tap into a very rich and moist subtropical jet stream and bring that moisture across to the southwest and generally speaking across the southern United States in general.

>> Michael Grant:
When you get that low pressure system that we were talking about, it naturally swirls past and circulates over at least some of that water to then bring it up our way?

>> Tony Haffer:
Exactly correct.

>> Michael Grant: Okay. Give us the statistics right now, Charlie, on -- obviously the Verde lake system is full?

>> Charlie Ester:
Actually it's not full. We've gotten enough water.

>> Michael Grant:
You are trying not to have it full.

>> Charlie Ester:
We're trying not to have it full because we're expecting more storms. The only way to reduce the peak flow through the valley is to have some storage space available so we can shave that peak off and store it. The Verde is 70\% full right now. On the salt side we're more full and the system is just shy of 50\% full. We've come up close to 10\% over the last week, hopefully that trend will continue.

>> Michael Grant:
You mentioned 51 inches at Promontory Point. Place that in some context for us. What is that trend? Is it possible to say okay that would be 2\% more when it melts? I mean, can you do that kind of thing?

>> Charlie Ester:
Sure, I'm really optimistic about the runoff potential this spring, because we've had a really wet fall. We've had wet ground that we covered up with snow. The yield will be much higher than normal. To put that into perspective, last year when our snow pack melted, the creeks didn't even come up. We saw no increase in runoff when the snow melted. This year, we should see a pretty strong yield and I would think, you know, 35, 40, 50\% of the snow pack that's on the ground, assuming it melts in a nice regular fashion, should produce some runoff.

>> Michael Grant:
There have also obviously been a lot of concerns about the Colorado River system as well. Is some of this weather helping the Colorado River system out as well or not?

>> Charlie Ester:
You know, actually it's not as promising as one would think. These storms have really spent themselves over Arizona and Utah, and by the time they've gotten into most of the upper Colorado basin, they are struggling to have normal conditions right now. Now, hopefully as we get into the prime time, which is January, February and March for these storms, maybe it'll have enough energy that they'll be able to hit the Colorado basin as well. Up until now, it's really been an Arizona and Utah affair.

>> Michael Grant:
All right, let's retract our focus a little bit. We've got two storms coming in, we think, here in the next five days or so?

>> Tony Haffer:
Yeah, sure looks like it. Probably the first one will begin to affect the valley late Friday and linger into part of Saturday, but what the charts are saying early this afternoon are that there was a hum dinger of a storm poised to come in sometime late Monday and Tuesday, which could bring with it warm weather, preceding the rain, and as Charlie said earlier, we could see warm weather begin to melt the snow. If we get rain on top of that, we could see interesting runoff.

>> Michael Grant:
Would we expect the same kind of violence, Tony with these storms? Yesterday we had tornado warnings, hail, and winds. Are these calmer storms or not?

>> Tony Haffer:
Calmer is a good word. The first storm compared to what we've seen is going to be quite meager. Hopefully it will produce some moisture. The second storm, hard to say right now. As far as the severe weather, the hail and the tornadoes, it doesn't look like it right now, but in terms of moisture potential, both in terms of rain and snow, it has promise.

>> Michael Grant:
All right. Let me ask each -- I mean we've obviously been speaking fairly optimistic in terms of the balance of the winter period. Is that Charlie, the way you see it?

>> Charlie Ester:
Well, we've been in this wet pattern since October, and we've seen a couple of breaks. Each time there's been a break it's come back to a wet pattern. We're quite optimistic that we'll stay in that. In a week or so, we'll have a couple of weeks of a break, but I suspect in February it's going to come back quite strong.

>> Michael Grant:
January, February, and March, Tony? What do you think?

>> Tony Haffer:
Looking real good, as Charlie said. I agree there'll be a break in the pattern probably for a week, ten days, maybe two weeks, and then back to the wet flow. As we were saying, typically later in the winter is when El Niņo is GINNED up that warm water is on the west coast of Peru and has the potential to give us rich tropical moisture that we like to see. Stay tuned.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is that March is normally the wettest of the months. Is that -- am I somewhere in the ballpark?

>> Tony Haffer:
Well, yeah, you sure are. The first three months are the key months of the year. March typically can go either way depending on when Mother Nature decides to shut off the moisture.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, I like this conversation a lot better than our last one. Tony Haffer, thank you. Charlie Ester, SRP, appreciates the information.

>> Michael Grant:
Maricopa County is the fifth largest prosecutorial office in the United States. And a newly elected chief prosecuting officer was sworn in on Monday. Andrew Thomas is a noted author and leading authority on the criminal justice system. He joins us in just a moment to talk about his vision and priorities as he takes office. First, Merry Lucero has a brief look at the county attorney's office.

>> Reporter Merry Lucero:
The Maricopa County attorney's office has gained some national recognition, prosecuting some high profile cases, such as AZSCAM, the Catholic church investigation, Bishop Thomas O'Brien's leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and the Scott Philator sleep walking murder. The office prosecutes more than 40,000 criminal cases each year, has 15 specialized divisions with over 900 attorneys, investigators, administrators, paralegals, victim advocates and support staff. The Maricopa County attorney employs more than 300 prosecutors who represent Arizona in felony cases. Some specialized areas of prosecution include computer and Internet crimes, deadly weapons, family violence, hate crimes, homicide, identity theft, sexual offenses, and stalking.

>> Luis Gonzales:
Ever dream of being a World Series champ, an astronaut, or fashion designer, you can reach those dreams if you don't let drugs get in the way.

>> Reporter Merry Lucero:
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office provides victims services and community based programs, such as drugfreeAZ.

>> Michael Grant:
Joining me now is Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Andrew, good to see you again.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Good to see you Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Congratulations.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Thank you very much.

>> Michael Grant:
Sworn in on Monday. Was it everything you would hope it would be?

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was. A little known fact, I was sworn in a couple of weeks before that because you become county attorney at the stroke of midnight on New Year's. So I ended up becoming county attorney at a friend's house at a New Year's party, which was kind of interesting, but they have a formal swearing in which they had done Monday, and it was an honor to be a part of that.

>> Michael Grant:
That's interesting.

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was something I didn't know, so for your viewing pleasure.

>> Michael Grant:
Is that peculiar to the office of the county attorney or is that all county offices?

>> Andrew Thomas:
It's all county offices.

>> Michael Grant:
It's a darned inconvenient time.

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was actually a very festive time in my case.

>> Michael Grant:
I'm going to pepper you with questions on a variety of subjects. Why don't I ask you for how do you going into the office in the first week, people talk about the first 100 days, the first of the year. I mean, what have you set for yourself as priorities or objectives?

>> Andrew Thomas:
What we're going to pursue the issues and priorities that I talked about in the campaign and fulfilling the pledges that I made to the people of Maricopa County in running. I want to see violent and serious offenders taken out of our society for longer periods of time. I want to see them locked up for longer periods of time. That will have an effect, particularly with repeat offenders on the crime rates in our county. We're in the process of reviewing the plea policy so we can have tougher plea offers on the more trials ultimately; that I think will result in tougher sentences. We're going to work with the courts and make sure that there is an orderly process in doing that, but that's going to be one of my top priorities. Auto theft and identity thefts are tremendous problems in Maricopa County. We still have the highest identity theft rate in the nation in identity theft.

>> Michael Grant:
Is there an explanation for that, why identity theft should be so high here in contrast to Chicago, San Francisco, wherever?

>> Andrew Thomas:
There is a number of factors that interplay. I dent at this time theft tends to be tied to the meth trade, methamphetamines, which has become, just as crack had a tremendous effect on the inner city in the '80s and '90s, meth has become the drug of choice for really the white underclass, and that is tied, often to identity theft, people are stealing people's identities in order to finance drug habits. We have a younger population in Arizona than we have in some other states. There are a number of facts that interplay. People respond to incentives and punishment. We need to hold people who commit this crime in particular accountable. We need to penalize them more severely and we need to break up the clusters of people who are basically trafficking in identities and that's going to be one of our top priorities, putting together legislation and that's going to be a big push for us.

>> Michael Grant:
As you know, there are, however, a lot of thoughtful people, who think it's time to revisit mandatory sentencing laws and once again give judges more discretion, not necessarily to give lighter sentences, but in the belief that a mandatory sentence sometimes does not match the circumstances or for that matter the heinousness crime committed. What do you think about mandatory sentencing?

>> Andrew Thomas:
I support mandatory sentencing. It was imposed to reaction to perception that at times judges were not willing to impose the penalties for crimes that the people thought were appropriate, and the best way to get uniformity and to make sure that people are being deterred from committing crimes is for them to know they are going to receive a certain punishment if they commit them, and I understand the concern, the fiscal concerns about our prisons and our jails and I'm a taxpayer like everybody else, but I do think, number one, that the main responsibility of government is to allow law abiding people to live their lives in peace and security from criminals. That needs to be a top budget priority. I also believe, number two, that if we're going to look at this issue of mandatory sentencing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with having a conversation particularly about if we're going to get tougher in certain areas, do we necessarily send people to prison, are there other alternatives --

>> Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

>> Andrew Thomas:
-- there is nothing wrong with having that conversation, but repealing or revoking mandatory sentencing, I think, would be a step in the wrong direction and a big step in the wrong direction.

>> Michael Grant:
Really, with mandatory sentencing, all you did was give prosecutors a larger club. They can come after you with a variety of charges, with some fierce mandatory penalties associated and I think a pretty good point can be made, do you want that kind of power in the hands of an independent judge or in the hands of a party prosecutor?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Arguably I'm biased given that I'm the prosecutor in that equation.

>> Michael Grant:
I understand.

>> Andrew Thomas:
We have a system of mandatory sentencing that does give that tool to prosecutors. I think it's working. The bottom line is our crime rates have gone down significantly for the last 10 years as a result of the incarceration rates tripling in this country. That is an expensive proposition, I will grant you that. However, it is far less expensive than letting repeat or violent offenders roam our streets because we're trying to save money.

>> Michael Grant:
By other theories, they are saying the baby boomers are simply getting older and too tired to commit crime.

>> Andrew Thomas:
No, because their children are coming of age. Actually, we've had a boom in the teenagers over the last 10 years. There were predictions 10 years ago and I was one who joined the fears that there would be a boom in our crime rate that never materialized. I'm convinced it's because the incarceration rates were going up at the same time, and that served to send a message to potential criminals.

>> Michael Grant:
Seems to me that one of the most difficult prosecutorial decisions that a county attorney faces is the situation where you have a child drowning and you have a moment, maybe several moments of parental neglect or inattention. The child dies. Obviously there are different circumstances that -- and oftentimes more egregious circumstances than moments of inattention. Do you approach that particular issue with any particular mindset?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Those cases really have to be judged on the facts. They have to be reviewed individually for the reasons that you just discussed. There are occasions in which there is a momentary lack of attention that leads to a death. There are other times when the facts are far more egregious. You have a parent who is strung out on crack or something like that. You have to review those, I think, one by one individually and that's what the office does, and that's what we'll continue to do.

>> Michael Grant:
So you don't see it as approaching it from the standpoint of sending a message, necessarily, to the next parent, you evaluate the circumstances based upon whatever those circumstances were?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Yes, and you have to, just from the standpoint of making sure that the punishment fits the crime, and for that matter, whether there is even a crime. Sometimes it's just a tragic mistake. It's a momentary thing, but other times, it is neglect that leads to a death, and that's why it has to be done on a case by case basis.

>> Michael Grant:
Sting operations. Would Andrew Thomas have done AZSCAM?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Well, I think the fruit of AZSCAM certainly justified the effort that was put into it, and I think Rick Romley in a number of respects in his career did have some commendable milestones in what he did. You always have to be careful when you are dealing with a political process, simply because you don't unfairly target people because it's more likely to make the headlines.

>> Michael Grant:
That's the issue that goes on here, as you know. Is government actually inducing the crime, or is it simply making available the opportunity for a crime for a person otherwise predisposed to commit one?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Right. That ultimately is for the jury to decide, whether somebody was induced. I think, again, in that case, in particular, with AZSCAM, you had -- it was a very effective operation, and I think Rick Romley is to be commended for doing that. Certainly if I were ever made aware that there was corruption of any sort occurring and I had the jurisdiction to do something about it, I would, I don't care who the political actors are. That's the bottom line for that office is that justice needs to be blind.

>> Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. How are the relations between the county attorney's office and the county Sheriff's Office? They have been a little strained because of the prostitution sting.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Yes, among other things. I think they are going well. I met with Sheriff Joe Arpaio before taking office as well as some of his aides. We had a good, frank discussion. We shared concerns and we shared our perspective on things. I think things are off to a good start.

>> Michael Grant:
"Frank" is sometimes a buzz-word for brutal, but I won't push it because we're out of time. Andrew Thomas, best of luck in your new assignment.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Thank you very much.

>> Michael Grant:
We appreciate it.

>>> Michael Grant:
For links related to tonight's program, to see transcripts of "Horizon" and find out about upcoming topics, visit our web site. That address is www.azpbs.org, click "Horizon" and follow the links.

>>> Michael Grant:
And tomorrow, Governor Janet Napolitano joins us on "Horizon." You send us a question for the Governor via E-mail at horizon@asu.edu. Here is a look at what the Governor will discuss.

>> Reporter Mike Sauceda:
Governor Janet Napolitano with wants to rush ahead with a proposal being pushed by conservative Republicans, a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The state is in the midst of the implementation of Proposition 200 and Arizona's healthcare program for the poor is facing financial problems of its own. That's Thursday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
And tomorrow, following "Horizon," stay tuned for "Horizonte." Then on Friday, our panel of journalists looks back at the year 2004 and makes predictions for 2005. Thank you for being here on this Wednesday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one, good night.

Weather Outlook


  • Rain, hail, even tornado warnings. Is it a fluke or will it be a wetter winter for the Valley? We'll look at the big picture.
Guests:
  • Tony Haffer - meteorologist, National Weather Service - Phoenix office
  • Charlie Ester - Manager, Water Resource Operations, SRP
  • Andrew Thomas - Maricopa County Attorney


View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
Tonight on "Horizon," rain, hail, even tornado warnings. Is it a fluke or will it be a wetter winter for the Valley? We'll look at the big picture.

>>> Michael Grant:
And the storms have caused runoff from the Salt River Project's water shed to prompt the release of water down the normally dry Salt River. It's now flowing through Tempe Town Lake. We'll have an update on our reservoir system.

>>> Michael Grant:
Plus, he is the newly elected Maricopa County Attorney. Find out what Andrew Thomas has in store as the chief prosecuting officer for the County. That's next on "Horizon."

>> Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Those stories in a moment. First, the search has begun again for a new Director of the Department of Public Safety. In November, Governor Janet Napolitano had named current U.S. Marshal David Gonzales to take over the job. Gonzales has now withdrawn his name from consideration, citing personal reasons. The Governor is appointing a selection committee to conduct the nationwide search.

>>> Michael Grant:
Storms over the past couple of weeks have brought us some serious consequences, at least four deaths. People have had to evacuate their homes because of swollen waterways. Significant precipitation has caused Salt River Project to release water down the Salt River. Is the current weather an indication that we will be getting above-normal rainfall this season? Here now to talk about the weather, Tony Haffer, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Phoenix. Also here to talk about the impact of the weather on our reservoir system and the drought is Charlie Ester, manager of SRP's Water Resource Operations. Gentlemen, good to see both you again.

>> Charlie Ester:
Great to be here, Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, let me start with the big picture. What's going on here?

>> Tony Haffer:
It's certainly been a wonderful page from the past 9 years or so where we've seen lots of rain here and snow just recently. Mother Nature has kind of gotten us into a wet pattern and we're loving every bit of it.

>> Michael Grant:
Last week's pattern seemed different than a lot of the winter storms that we get. They come from the west, they come from Los Angeles, that kind of thing. This one was coming from the south and the west. Is that partially explain why it was so wet?

>> Tony Haffer:
It sure does. Typically when we see our storms come in from more of a westerly direction, they don't have the opportunity to tap the moisture from the subtropics. By taking a more southerly pass and coming over San Diego and south of San Diego, they are able to bring that rich moisture from the tropics. As the storm comes over Arizona it drops a good bit of the moisture that it got from the subtropics and hence, lots of rain and snow.

>> Michael Grant:
I seem to recall several months ago when last we chatted, I was trying to talk you into that this was going to be a wet winter, and you were resisting it.

>> Tony Haffer:
Absolutely.

>> Michael Grant:
Have you now come over to my side?

>> Tony Haffer:
How much do you want to pay? Well, when we last met, there was not really any indication in the Pacific Ocean of an El Niņo going on. We do have a rather weak El Niņo going on. Generally speaking, El Niņos are good for the southern United States and the southwest as well. We're hoping that the wet rainfall we've seen is going to continue. In fact, that's what the National Weather Service projections are indicating, that there is a greater than normal chance for above-normal precipitation in Arizona from now through March.

>> Michael Grant:
Incidentally, we've got graphics to illustrate that and we'll do that in a second. Charlie let me pull you in here in terms of putting this in some perspective. You were telling me that actually, we are now ahead of 1993 in terms of precipitation. '93 was the storm that brought down the bridge that was under construction in Tempe.

>> Charlie Ester:
'93 was the wettest year since 1905 in Arizona. We are now well ahead of that, about 150\% ahead of 1993. Now, that doesn't mean that trend is going to continue, but if it were to continue, we would be looking at a lot of water to deal with this spring.

>> Michael Grant:
And we are rolling that 1993 video of the bridge collapse right now. Charlie, do you recall how much water was going through the river at that point in time in terms of CFS?

>> Charlie Ester:
I certainly do. The bridge collapse when had we increased it to 63,000 cubic feet per second. The release peaked at 30,000 feet. We've been able to manage these events with relatively small amounts of water releases.

>> Michael Grant:
Now, the question you always get is hold it, we're in the middle of a 9-year drought. We've heard the statistics for a long time from the project about how low the reservoir levels are. You get one good storm and all of a sudden you guys are ripping down the Salt River with 20,000 to 30,000 feet per second. Why?

>> Charlie Ester:
This is our worst nightmare come true. Roosevelt Lake is close to empty because of the 9-year drought that we're in and we get a series of storms that focus on the Verde watershed, produce a lot of runoff into our two smallest reservoirs, they fill to capacity and we have no other choice but to release that water. At the same time, Roosevelt, with a huge storage capacity has stores over 07\% of our total water supply, it's sitting at 30\% right now. It has gained though in the last week, it's up to 40\%.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, that weather pattern we were talking about coming from the south and the west, unfortunately, it was funneled more toward the Prescott, Sedona, Flagstaff area which is, either the Verde or the little Colorado watershed and not the Salt River watershed.

>> Tony Haffer:
That's right. As Charlie said, beggars can't be choosers in a nine-year drought it's nice to get anything. Mother Nature had it in for the western half of Arizona, if you will, on these particular storms. Although this, last storm we just had, Monday and Tuesday, did show more of a tendency to give us precipitation further east than I -- and I think there was a fair amount of runoff into the Roosevelt lake as far as it goes.

>> Michael Grant:
You were telling me that the snow pack, in terms of the Salt River watershed, it's primarily the White Mountain area, is it not?

>> Charlie Ester:
It's from the Payson area all the way east to the White Mountains.

>> Michael Grant:
You gave me statistics on the snow levels up in that area.

>> Charlie Ester:
Yes, one of our snow tell sites at Promontory Point, a high point on the rim, it has 51 inches of snow on the ground with 15 inches of water. So there is a fair amount there. If you look at the entire Salt River watershed we've gone from near normal a week ago to almost 200\% of normal. The trend is really good. The fear is that we'll get another of these warm tropical storms that Tony has been talking about and rain that snow off, and that causes huge peak flows. If it's on the salt right now, we'll be able to absorb it into Roosevelt Lake and store that. If it comes on the Verde, we'll be looking at much higher releases than we've seen.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, let me go back to that El Niņo point, because I think we have some graphics here which you can describe. We now have a weak El Niņo in the Pacific; right? This is January of '97, why don't you explain it.

>> Tony Haffer:
Typically, this is a cross-section of the Pacific Ocean along the equator. In a typically normal year, if you will, the warmer water is on the left-hand part of the screen. During an El Niņo year, the warm water will progress from left to right on the screen to the West Coast of Mexico and off the coast of Peru as we see in this particular picture here. And you say what does that really mean? It's like looking at the pot on the stove. As you begin to raise the temperature of the water, you see more steam and water vapor go off the top of the pot. So by having more moisture available in the eastern Pacific, the storms that we see every winter have a real significant source of more moisture to tap and to bring to the southern half of the United States.

>> Michael Grant:
This is March of '98. The red area being the warmer water, and what we can obviously see the United States there in the background, but that's the warm water off the coast of Peru and Mexico?

>> Tony Haffer:
Right. And then the storms that normally come along the West Coast are able to tap into a very rich and moist subtropical jet stream and bring that moisture across to the southwest and generally speaking across the southern United States in general.

>> Michael Grant:
When you get that low pressure system that we were talking about, it naturally swirls past and circulates over at least some of that water to then bring it up our way?

>> Tony Haffer:
Exactly correct.

>> Michael Grant: Okay. Give us the statistics right now, Charlie, on -- obviously the Verde lake system is full?

>> Charlie Ester:
Actually it's not full. We've gotten enough water.

>> Michael Grant:
You are trying not to have it full.

>> Charlie Ester:
We're trying not to have it full because we're expecting more storms. The only way to reduce the peak flow through the valley is to have some storage space available so we can shave that peak off and store it. The Verde is 70\% full right now. On the salt side we're more full and the system is just shy of 50\% full. We've come up close to 10\% over the last week, hopefully that trend will continue.

>> Michael Grant:
You mentioned 51 inches at Promontory Point. Place that in some context for us. What is that trend? Is it possible to say okay that would be 2\% more when it melts? I mean, can you do that kind of thing?

>> Charlie Ester:
Sure, I'm really optimistic about the runoff potential this spring, because we've had a really wet fall. We've had wet ground that we covered up with snow. The yield will be much higher than normal. To put that into perspective, last year when our snow pack melted, the creeks didn't even come up. We saw no increase in runoff when the snow melted. This year, we should see a pretty strong yield and I would think, you know, 35, 40, 50\% of the snow pack that's on the ground, assuming it melts in a nice regular fashion, should produce some runoff.

>> Michael Grant:
There have also obviously been a lot of concerns about the Colorado River system as well. Is some of this weather helping the Colorado River system out as well or not?

>> Charlie Ester:
You know, actually it's not as promising as one would think. These storms have really spent themselves over Arizona and Utah, and by the time they've gotten into most of the upper Colorado basin, they are struggling to have normal conditions right now. Now, hopefully as we get into the prime time, which is January, February and March for these storms, maybe it'll have enough energy that they'll be able to hit the Colorado basin as well. Up until now, it's really been an Arizona and Utah affair.

>> Michael Grant:
All right, let's retract our focus a little bit. We've got two storms coming in, we think, here in the next five days or so?

>> Tony Haffer:
Yeah, sure looks like it. Probably the first one will begin to affect the valley late Friday and linger into part of Saturday, but what the charts are saying early this afternoon are that there was a hum dinger of a storm poised to come in sometime late Monday and Tuesday, which could bring with it warm weather, preceding the rain, and as Charlie said earlier, we could see warm weather begin to melt the snow. If we get rain on top of that, we could see interesting runoff.

>> Michael Grant:
Would we expect the same kind of violence, Tony with these storms? Yesterday we had tornado warnings, hail, and winds. Are these calmer storms or not?

>> Tony Haffer:
Calmer is a good word. The first storm compared to what we've seen is going to be quite meager. Hopefully it will produce some moisture. The second storm, hard to say right now. As far as the severe weather, the hail and the tornadoes, it doesn't look like it right now, but in terms of moisture potential, both in terms of rain and snow, it has promise.

>> Michael Grant:
All right. Let me ask each -- I mean we've obviously been speaking fairly optimistic in terms of the balance of the winter period. Is that Charlie, the way you see it?

>> Charlie Ester:
Well, we've been in this wet pattern since October, and we've seen a couple of breaks. Each time there's been a break it's come back to a wet pattern. We're quite optimistic that we'll stay in that. In a week or so, we'll have a couple of weeks of a break, but I suspect in February it's going to come back quite strong.

>> Michael Grant:
January, February, and March, Tony? What do you think?

>> Tony Haffer:
Looking real good, as Charlie said. I agree there'll be a break in the pattern probably for a week, ten days, maybe two weeks, and then back to the wet flow. As we were saying, typically later in the winter is when El Niņo is GINNED up that warm water is on the west coast of Peru and has the potential to give us rich tropical moisture that we like to see. Stay tuned.

>> Michael Grant:
My feel is that March is normally the wettest of the months. Is that -- am I somewhere in the ballpark?

>> Tony Haffer:
Well, yeah, you sure are. The first three months are the key months of the year. March typically can go either way depending on when Mother Nature decides to shut off the moisture.

>> Michael Grant:
Tony, I like this conversation a lot better than our last one. Tony Haffer, thank you. Charlie Ester, SRP, appreciates the information.

>> Michael Grant:
Maricopa County is the fifth largest prosecutorial office in the United States. And a newly elected chief prosecuting officer was sworn in on Monday. Andrew Thomas is a noted author and leading authority on the criminal justice system. He joins us in just a moment to talk about his vision and priorities as he takes office. First, Merry Lucero has a brief look at the county attorney's office.

>> Reporter Merry Lucero:
The Maricopa County attorney's office has gained some national recognition, prosecuting some high profile cases, such as AZSCAM, the Catholic church investigation, Bishop Thomas O'Brien's leaving the scene of a fatal accident, and the Scott Philator sleep walking murder. The office prosecutes more than 40,000 criminal cases each year, has 15 specialized divisions with over 900 attorneys, investigators, administrators, paralegals, victim advocates and support staff. The Maricopa County attorney employs more than 300 prosecutors who represent Arizona in felony cases. Some specialized areas of prosecution include computer and Internet crimes, deadly weapons, family violence, hate crimes, homicide, identity theft, sexual offenses, and stalking.

>> Luis Gonzales:
Ever dream of being a World Series champ, an astronaut, or fashion designer, you can reach those dreams if you don't let drugs get in the way.

>> Reporter Merry Lucero:
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office provides victims services and community based programs, such as drugfreeAZ.

>> Michael Grant:
Joining me now is Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Andrew, good to see you again.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Good to see you Michael.

>> Michael Grant:
Congratulations.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Thank you very much.

>> Michael Grant:
Sworn in on Monday. Was it everything you would hope it would be?

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was. A little known fact, I was sworn in a couple of weeks before that because you become county attorney at the stroke of midnight on New Year's. So I ended up becoming county attorney at a friend's house at a New Year's party, which was kind of interesting, but they have a formal swearing in which they had done Monday, and it was an honor to be a part of that.

>> Michael Grant:
That's interesting.

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was something I didn't know, so for your viewing pleasure.

>> Michael Grant:
Is that peculiar to the office of the county attorney or is that all county offices?

>> Andrew Thomas:
It's all county offices.

>> Michael Grant:
It's a darned inconvenient time.

>> Andrew Thomas:
It was actually a very festive time in my case.

>> Michael Grant:
I'm going to pepper you with questions on a variety of subjects. Why don't I ask you for how do you going into the office in the first week, people talk about the first 100 days, the first of the year. I mean, what have you set for yourself as priorities or objectives?

>> Andrew Thomas:
What we're going to pursue the issues and priorities that I talked about in the campaign and fulfilling the pledges that I made to the people of Maricopa County in running. I want to see violent and serious offenders taken out of our society for longer periods of time. I want to see them locked up for longer periods of time. That will have an effect, particularly with repeat offenders on the crime rates in our county. We're in the process of reviewing the plea policy so we can have tougher plea offers on the more trials ultimately; that I think will result in tougher sentences. We're going to work with the courts and make sure that there is an orderly process in doing that, but that's going to be one of my top priorities. Auto theft and identity thefts are tremendous problems in Maricopa County. We still have the highest identity theft rate in the nation in identity theft.

>> Michael Grant:
Is there an explanation for that, why identity theft should be so high here in contrast to Chicago, San Francisco, wherever?

>> Andrew Thomas:
There is a number of factors that interplay. I dent at this time theft tends to be tied to the meth trade, methamphetamines, which has become, just as crack had a tremendous effect on the inner city in the '80s and '90s, meth has become the drug of choice for really the white underclass, and that is tied, often to identity theft, people are stealing people's identities in order to finance drug habits. We have a younger population in Arizona than we have in some other states. There are a number of facts that interplay. People respond to incentives and punishment. We need to hold people who commit this crime in particular accountable. We need to penalize them more severely and we need to break up the clusters of people who are basically trafficking in identities and that's going to be one of our top priorities, putting together legislation and that's going to be a big push for us.

>> Michael Grant:
As you know, there are, however, a lot of thoughtful people, who think it's time to revisit mandatory sentencing laws and once again give judges more discretion, not necessarily to give lighter sentences, but in the belief that a mandatory sentence sometimes does not match the circumstances or for that matter the heinousness crime committed. What do you think about mandatory sentencing?

>> Andrew Thomas:
I support mandatory sentencing. It was imposed to reaction to perception that at times judges were not willing to impose the penalties for crimes that the people thought were appropriate, and the best way to get uniformity and to make sure that people are being deterred from committing crimes is for them to know they are going to receive a certain punishment if they commit them, and I understand the concern, the fiscal concerns about our prisons and our jails and I'm a taxpayer like everybody else, but I do think, number one, that the main responsibility of government is to allow law abiding people to live their lives in peace and security from criminals. That needs to be a top budget priority. I also believe, number two, that if we're going to look at this issue of mandatory sentencing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with having a conversation particularly about if we're going to get tougher in certain areas, do we necessarily send people to prison, are there other alternatives --

>> Michael Grant:
Uh-huh.

>> Andrew Thomas:
-- there is nothing wrong with having that conversation, but repealing or revoking mandatory sentencing, I think, would be a step in the wrong direction and a big step in the wrong direction.

>> Michael Grant:
Really, with mandatory sentencing, all you did was give prosecutors a larger club. They can come after you with a variety of charges, with some fierce mandatory penalties associated and I think a pretty good point can be made, do you want that kind of power in the hands of an independent judge or in the hands of a party prosecutor?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Arguably I'm biased given that I'm the prosecutor in that equation.

>> Michael Grant:
I understand.

>> Andrew Thomas:
We have a system of mandatory sentencing that does give that tool to prosecutors. I think it's working. The bottom line is our crime rates have gone down significantly for the last 10 years as a result of the incarceration rates tripling in this country. That is an expensive proposition, I will grant you that. However, it is far less expensive than letting repeat or violent offenders roam our streets because we're trying to save money.

>> Michael Grant:
By other theories, they are saying the baby boomers are simply getting older and too tired to commit crime.

>> Andrew Thomas:
No, because their children are coming of age. Actually, we've had a boom in the teenagers over the last 10 years. There were predictions 10 years ago and I was one who joined the fears that there would be a boom in our crime rate that never materialized. I'm convinced it's because the incarceration rates were going up at the same time, and that served to send a message to potential criminals.

>> Michael Grant:
Seems to me that one of the most difficult prosecutorial decisions that a county attorney faces is the situation where you have a child drowning and you have a moment, maybe several moments of parental neglect or inattention. The child dies. Obviously there are different circumstances that -- and oftentimes more egregious circumstances than moments of inattention. Do you approach that particular issue with any particular mindset?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Those cases really have to be judged on the facts. They have to be reviewed individually for the reasons that you just discussed. There are occasions in which there is a momentary lack of attention that leads to a death. There are other times when the facts are far more egregious. You have a parent who is strung out on crack or something like that. You have to review those, I think, one by one individually and that's what the office does, and that's what we'll continue to do.

>> Michael Grant:
So you don't see it as approaching it from the standpoint of sending a message, necessarily, to the next parent, you evaluate the circumstances based upon whatever those circumstances were?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Yes, and you have to, just from the standpoint of making sure that the punishment fits the crime, and for that matter, whether there is even a crime. Sometimes it's just a tragic mistake. It's a momentary thing, but other times, it is neglect that leads to a death, and that's why it has to be done on a case by case basis.

>> Michael Grant:
Sting operations. Would Andrew Thomas have done AZSCAM?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Well, I think the fruit of AZSCAM certainly justified the effort that was put into it, and I think Rick Romley in a number of respects in his career did have some commendable milestones in what he did. You always have to be careful when you are dealing with a political process, simply because you don't unfairly target people because it's more likely to make the headlines.

>> Michael Grant:
That's the issue that goes on here, as you know. Is government actually inducing the crime, or is it simply making available the opportunity for a crime for a person otherwise predisposed to commit one?

>> Andrew Thomas:
Right. That ultimately is for the jury to decide, whether somebody was induced. I think, again, in that case, in particular, with AZSCAM, you had -- it was a very effective operation, and I think Rick Romley is to be commended for doing that. Certainly if I were ever made aware that there was corruption of any sort occurring and I had the jurisdiction to do something about it, I would, I don't care who the political actors are. That's the bottom line for that office is that justice needs to be blind.

>> Michael Grant:
Almost out of time. How are the relations between the county attorney's office and the county Sheriff's Office? They have been a little strained because of the prostitution sting.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Yes, among other things. I think they are going well. I met with Sheriff Joe Arpaio before taking office as well as some of his aides. We had a good, frank discussion. We shared concerns and we shared our perspective on things. I think things are off to a good start.

>> Michael Grant:
"Frank" is sometimes a buzz-word for brutal, but I won't push it because we're out of time. Andrew Thomas, best of luck in your new assignment.

>> Andrew Thomas:
Thank you very much.

>> Michael Grant:
We appreciate it.

>>> Michael Grant:
For links related to tonight's program, to see transcripts of "Horizon" and find out about upcoming topics, visit our web site. That address is www.azpbs.org, click "Horizon" and follow the links.

>>> Michael Grant:
And tomorrow, Governor Janet Napolitano joins us on "Horizon." You send us a question for the Governor via E-mail at horizon@asu.edu. Here is a look at what the Governor will discuss.

>> Reporter Mike Sauceda:
Governor Janet Napolitano with wants to rush ahead with a proposal being pushed by conservative Republicans, a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The state is in the midst of the implementation of Proposition 200 and Arizona's healthcare program for the poor is facing financial problems of its own. That's Thursday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
And tomorrow, following "Horizon," stay tuned for "Horizonte." Then on Friday, our panel of journalists looks back at the year 2004 and makes predictions for 2005. Thank you for being here on this Wednesday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one, good night.

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