Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 21, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

senator Jon Kyl


  • Arizona Senator Jon Kyl joins HORIZON to discuss issues before the Senate including spending and immigration bills.
Guests:
  • Senator Jon Kyl -
  • Charlie Ester - manager, Water Resource Operations, Salt River Project


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon. Border security is one of the top issues being dealt with by members of congress, including Arizona's own Jon Kyl. He joins us in the studio to talk about that and other issues. Plus, as we head into what is typically our state's driest time of the year, we'll get an update on our drought and our water supply. Those stories next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the Friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. Complicated immigration border security issues that could directly impact our state are being discussed in the United States senate. How should congress reform our current immigration policy and secure our border, while dealing with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here? Joining us to talk about federal immigration legislation and some of the other key topics on Capitol Hill is U.S. Senator Jon Kyl. Senator, good to see you.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Michael, good to be with you.

Michael Grant:
And you brought rain.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
I'd like to take credit for it.

Michael Grant:
Well at least it wasn't much of a storm today. But we'll be talking later in the program.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Very interesting to hear that, yes.

Michael Grant:
In fact, why don't we start with that instead of immigration? But I want to get to that shortly. I think there's a two-fold concern about the condition of the state's forest. One was the president's budget proposal for next fiscal year. And as I understand it, actually the proposal was to cut back on firefighting efforts?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Well, it didn't increase the firefighting efforts. And it also I think shorted the management that is to say the pretreatment of the forest, thinning it out so fires don't have as much of a head start opportunity. In both cases the budget is not adequate and we're trying to do what we can to beef it up.

Michael Grant:
And on a more current basis, is there also a concern about where resources are being deployed and whether or not Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, the west, is going to have adequate resources?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
I raised that question at a hearing we had a couple of weeks ago with Mark Ray who's the assistant secretary of the department of agriculture in charge of this. And he assured us the prepositions of both the equipment like the aircraft and the special crews, the hotshot crews that go in to attack a fire right away has already occurred in the state of Arizona because they well understand the first fires will be here. So they may as well preposition the bulk of the equipment down here. But while these recent rains and snows have given us a big break, I think it's pretty clear we're still going to have a long and tough fire season and we'll probably going to need all the assets we can get.

Michael Grant:
Both of us are long-term residents. I really cannot recall -- they had bad fire seasons before, but I don't think I can recall a situation where really had the combination of bad, higher elevation forest health and bad desert elevation capability and potential as well.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Yes. To have a fire start on February 5th, which is when the fire just northwest of Payson started and actually move downhill when the temperatures in the evening were freezing, and just think of that. I mean normally those are conditions that would just put a fire right out it. Was so dry that the fire burned at that point. So we know that even though we've got a little bit of a reprieve with this recent weather it's going to be a very difficult season. And we'll continue to make sure the resources are here to fight those fires when they come. But again, long range we shouldn't be worried about fighting the fires. We should be able to treat the forest so when the fire comes it basically has nowhere to go. Do the thinning, do the prescribed burning, so that the forest is not as susceptible to those fires in the first instance. We've got hundreds of thousands of acres to treat. We've got to get about that job.

Michael Grant:
What's the status on that issue? I know the forest service was looking for greater flexibility to cut longer-term contracts, which people who do that kind of activity say, I got to have a longer commitment than two years. Where are we on that?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
We passed the healthy forest legislation, which makes it more difficult to sue to stop one of these treatment projects. And that has helped but it hasn't stopped the lawsuits. And as a result, the forest service is still pretty weary about putting these projects out to bid and moving forward with them. And yet in Arizona on the Tonto forest, for example, I was up in Payson talking to the ranger there, we've got thousands of thousands of acres that are what they call "Nepa ready", in other words it's already gone through the environmental review. They're ready to do them. And it's a matter of getting money from the forest service to begin the treatment here. So once again a lot of it gets right down to money. And we are trying to do our very west best to get much of it done here as possible. Obviously you'd like to have gotten it done before the fire season starts because once it starts, of course you can't go into the forest and do that kind of work.

Michael Grant:
Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned. She's been fairly key the past few years on several water issues along the Colorado. Does her resignation impact what seems to be some progress being made in that quarter?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
She's been very good. By the way, she's been a big advocate of forest health and forest management, too. She's been very good. She's had good staff. She understood the issues about Arizona's water battles and the big settlement that we got done. She was very helpful in that regard. Dirk Kemp Thorn, the president's nominee for that position is a westerner, governor from Idaho. If he's not quite as familiar with these issues as Gale Norton was, he'll have staff that I think will be. There's a person that's been nominated to become the solicitor of the department of interior, it's main lawyer, David Burnhart, who's very helpful for us in getting the settlement done for Arizona and if he's confirmed in that position that will be a big help.

Michael Grant:
Okay. So smooth transition, for him. Let's shift to immigration. Procedurally where are we on the immigration bill in the senate?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
We're in a week of so-called recess right now where we come home and visit with our constituents. Next Monday the judiciary committee on which I said will spend the day trying to finish up the so-called mockup of the immigration bill. Then Tuesday morning or thereabout we will start on the floor of the senate debating that legislation. We have set aside two weeks to do that. Now neither one-day in the committee nor two weeks on the floor are probably adequate to do a good job on this. But we're going to do our best. Because we've got to make sure that we've got all the pieces in place. Securing the border is not enough. We've also got to have good enforcement in the interior, at the work place. We have to have a workable system for hiring workers when we need them on a temporary basis. We need to be able to confirm their eligibility for employment and we need, as you said, find a way to deal with the 11 to 15 million people already here illegally, several of those are very difficult issues. And even if we all agreed on what the solution was, its complexity makes it difficult to write. So while we need to be getting about doing it, it's a very difficult task. It's going to be hard for us to accomplish.

Michael Grant:
Let's bust up some of those issues and take at least a quick look at individual component parts. I understand that Chairman Arlen Spectre of the Judiciary Committee trying to put together what he considers a compromise between your and Senator Cornyn's bill and the McCain-Kennedy bill on the whole guest worker program. Is it satisfactory? Is it a compromise in your opinion?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
The compromise pleases no one.

Michael Grant:
Then maybe it's an adequate compromise.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Well, maybe. But it's a moving target as well as it should be. There are other pieces of legislation in there, too. So basically Spectre has taken pieces from all the different bills and tried to meld them together. When we left Washington last Thursday, those of us who were most directly involved, Senator McCain, myself, Senator Cornyn, Senator Brownback, our staffs got together. They're going to be meeting with other folks, Spectre's and Kennedy's staff tomorrow and so on, to try to find ways of getting common ground so we could resolve the toughest issues. The easier issues I think we can resolve fairly well. But exactly how the get worker program works and how to deal with the illegal immigrants are the two toughest pieces.

Michael Grant:
But there would be a temporary worker program; there would be a waiting period involved. What about the fine aspect? One aspect of the McCain proposal.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
If I could difficult it just into two cases, sure. Most people in the senate, not necessarily the House of Representatives but the senate believe we need a temporary worker program for prospective workers. And it could be available for existing illegal immigrants population as well to participate in a legal way. So that temporary worker program needs to be written. It's not going to be easy. But I think we all agree that something like that is necessary but it's all got to be done within the law. Then the question is, how do you deal with the population of the illegal immigrants. And there is one view that says, if they pay a fine and don't violate the law and continue to work here that they should be on what's called a path to citizenship to get a green card, which entitles them to legal permanent residence and eventually become a citizen. I don't agree with that proposition. There's another view that says they should all go home immediately. I don't think that's practical. The legislation that Senator Cornyn and I have developed allows people an opportunity to stay here for up to 5 years, but we encourage them to go back to their country of origin at some point, hopefully before then. They would still be eligible to participate as guest workers under the temporary worker program. That way you're not forcing everyone to go home immediately. And there are incentives for people to remove themselves from the country so they can come back and work legally. Now, there are a lot of problems with all of these different bills. And I am pleased to work with those who have a different point of view because I don't think any of us can contend we've got it exactly right. And I'm willing to work to try to reach middle ground. Because here's something both Senator McCain and I agree on. We may differ on some of the details but we are absolutely committed to getting a comprehensive bill this year if at all possible. People in other states are not as committed. We say, look. This is a problem in Arizona that grows bigger every day.

Michael Grant:
The house is not very friendly to several of the proposals that you just outlined?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
That's right. The house want to do enforcement first and then see what happens. I don't think that's realistic. Because as I said, the longer we wait the bigger the problem is to solve. So I'd rather tackle it right now, even though it's not easy to find that common ground to work through it.

Michael Grant:
Why doesn't this go to -- now, I admit I lost track of where the house was. I thought the house was poised to actually pass a product a couple of months ago.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
They did. They actually did.

Michael Grant:
Did this go to a conference committee?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
It would. It would go to a conference committee. The house bill actually has a lot of good features relating to enforcement.

Michael Grant:
Strong on border security.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
It is. And we're pretty well agreed within the senate. In fact, we've done a lot of things in the senate now that will strengthen border security. It's now a matter of time for those things to kick in for the new border patrol agents that we authorized to be trained up and deployed, aircraft to be put in place, for the additional fencing moving out from some of the communities to actually be built and so on. Those things will happen. Now the focus ought to be on a worker eligibility program or verification program, a temporary worker program and a resolution of the illegal immigrant population.

Michael Grant:
Increased employer sanctions as well? Does that go hand in with that?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
I think it does but there are two parts to it. You can't make the employer the cop here. The government needs to decide whether someone is eligible to be employed or not. And when that person applies for a job a very simple document and number are electronically entered. The employer basically gets a green light or a red light. And it's electronically noted so if the green light comes up the employer can hire you and then it doesn't matter what happens later, you're okay. But if you hire a person when the numbers punched in comes up negative, don't hire that person because there will be substantial fines.

Michael Grant:
Critics here locally, there was some legislation that was introduced to that effect in the Arizona legislature. Critics here said, hold it. That federal verification system is not what it is cracked up to be, at least at the volumetric levels you would need if you were going to deploy it.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Right now it's a pilot project.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
And it will have to be expanded. And also cleaned up and modified in some respects. But it is a system, which I believe can be made to work to verify eligibility for employment. We've got literally millions of bad social security numbers out there now or people working under false numbers. That system needs to be cleaned up. It can be done and that's a critical component of any comprehensive immigration reform.

Michael Grant:
Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, we appreciate you very much joining us.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Thank you, Michael

Michael Grant:
You call-or might call them "snow birds." Officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who came to Phoenix to announce their 2006 U.S. spring outlook. The announcement came only a few days after a storm with rain and desert snow ended a record-setting rainless streak. In collaboration with the national interagency fire center, the agency paints a fairly pessimistic picture in terms of drought.

Larry Lemmons: Drought conditions will persist in Arizona after improvement in the short-term. That's the verdict from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which held a news conference last week in Phoenix to announce the national spring outlook.

Gen. D.L. Johnson: Just last week NOAA's data center reported this was the fifth driest record in the United States since 1895. It has also been one of the driest periods in the southwest and parts of the southern plain in the last 100-years. Before last weekend, Phoenix hadn't seen any rain since October 18, 2005. That's a staggering 143-days without a trace of precipitation. That clearly broke the previous record of 101 consecutive days. The 1.14 inches of rain Phoenix received last weekend broke this streak and the 1 to 4 feet of snow that fell in the higher terrain of Arizona eased the short-term fire potential and may provide some runoff water supplies. But even after the storm in mid-March, the mountain snow pack stood at one tenth to one half of the normal across Arizona and New Mexico and the dry season is approaching. In short, Phoenix and the rest of the southwest have severe drought conditions that are expected to persist, maybe intensify during the period April through June.

Larry Lemmons:
A number of factors are contributing to drought persistence, most notable a La Nina cycle and global climate change.

Ed O'Lenic:
La Nina has been present and active since January. And the question always arises, global climate change. What impact does that have? Well, it's a scientific fact. It's something that's out there. It's operating in the background. However, the regional impacts of this phenomenon have not yet been resolved. So our forecast tools will account for this to the extent that the science has put that capability into our forecast tool. That's why we have to continue to do research. Finally, again, random variability is always at work. And this is a way of saying the forecasts always have some uncertainty associated with them.

Larry Lemmons:
What this means of course in the months ahead is an elevated danger of wildfire.

Rick Ochoa:
So if this rainfall that we've had in the southwest is going to do is push back the fire season, the main fire season in places like Arizona and western New Mexico until April. But unfortunately, it's also going to help to grow some more grass for the area, which is going to be fuel for the summer fires. One of the factors in this fire season is also the carryover effect from last year's very wet winter and summer monsoon.

Larry Lemmons:
The fact of a drought also means that despite the availability of water today, planners must still manage a finite resource for a growing desert population.

Michael Grant:
Joining us now to talk about our water supply for now in the near future is the manager of Water Resource Operations for the Salt River project, Charlie Ester. Charlie thanks for being here again.

Charlie Ester: Good evening, Michael.

Michael Grant: You were at that conference. It sounds like the NOAA guys weren't exactly bubbling over with good news.

Charlie Ester:
No. I think they were painting a realistic picture, though.

Michael Grant:
What in particular, Charlie, seems to be -- La Nina was mentioned there. And we've heard about sort of a persistent high-pressure ridge. A combination of all that? Has that been this winter's weather story?

Charlie Ester:
I think so. The La Nina pattern tends to produce a high-pressure ridge over the southwest. And it's just been very persistent this year. And therefore we just didn't get any precipitation events until a couple weeks ago. The problem we're facing this year, though, is a dual-fold result of the wet winter we had last year. There's still a lot of vegetation in the desert that's standing up that's ready to burn right now. So unfortunately we have fire risk from border to border, north and south, east to west this year. Every community in the state is at risk of some fire.

Michael Grant:
Well, obviously we're all familiar with the fact it's been dry around here. What was the final stat us?

Charlie Ester:
143-days.

Michael Grant:
143-days? But it seems to me that one of the other problems associated with this was it was warmer than normal. So referring to the vegetation that you just mentioned, you know, not only is it wet but it also has had a prolonged drying trend.

Charlie Ester:
That's right. This winter is one of the warmest ever. Unfortunately we've been having a string of those. But when you have dry weather as a result of high pressure you tend to have warmer weather. And just today at the governor's healthy forest and safety conference in Prescott, one member of the presenting team showed a graph that Arizona's high country average temperature was about 8 degrees above normal. And for the forest that's a huge delta. That's a huge difference.

Michael Grant:
Well, and the February fire, I recall the people up there were saying that they were experiencing conditions in February about what they would normally expect to find in June.

Charlie Ester:
That's correct, yes. Fuel moisture levels prior to these recent storms were approaching all-time highs not only for February but also for June. And that is just the first time that's ever been recorded. Fortunately the storms now will have helped that a little bit. But some of these fuels like the large logs that Senator Kyl mentioned that were burning, those take about a month to moisten up. So even though we've had rain for a couple of weeks they won't get to the saturated level that we'd like them to be. So unfortunately when the snows do melt in the next few weeks, our fire danger is going to go right back up pretty quickly.

Michael Grant:
Obviously there was the bark beetle infestation I think primarily 2 to 3-years ago. Does that also put a different complex on this as well? There's a lot of dead wood out there.

Charlie Ester:
There's a lot of dead wood out there but still the majority of trees are alive. And the fear is that this warm winter will again activate the bark beetles and the trees should be relatively stressed from the dry weather. And that's a perfect combination for an outbreak.

Michael Grant:
Now, let's go to water supply. I seem to recall, Charlie, seeing perhaps in late January or so a story in the newspaper showing snowfall accumulations. And they were just depressing.

Charlie Ester:
Dismal at best. You know, we get most of our water supply from melting snow in central Arizona. And as early as the March 1 survey, the snow pack across the salt and Verde watershed, which of course was most interested in, was at 0\%. We have never seen that before. Now, with the recent storm it has jumped up to just under 50\%. But that's very misleading because we've taken a dry watershed and put snow on top of it. That's not the same as slowly accumulating the snow pack over a season. So the ground underneath the snow is still very dry. And when it melts my suspicion is it's going to absorb all the water and will be-- which is good for the watershed. But I don't think there'll be any left for runoff into the reservoir system.

Michael Grant:
Specifically I think we heard -- I want to say that storm a couple of weeks ago produced I think it was almost 5 feet in the snow bowl area. Did it bless northern Arizona sort of uniformly? I mean, out to the White Mountains, Prescott, and those kinds of things?

Charlie Ester:
It really was a fantastic storm. And I don't think we could have ordered one better. It did. It went from the Grand Canyon all the way to the White Mountains and on into New Mexico. And every place above about 6,000 feet had about two feet of snow. And if you were in a favored spot, three to four feet was not uncommon. Like you said, Snow Bowl had close to 5 feet and there were places in the White Mountains had over 4 feet as well.

Michael Grant:
Now, did this last much smaller storm here in the past 3 or 4 days storms, actually a couple of systems, did that deliver much?

Charlie Ester:
We've added about a half-inch of water content over the watershed since the big storm. And while that doesn't sound like a whole lot, what it is, is coming on top of the snow that already fell. So that's good. Certainly we would have liked to have a lot more. But after as terrible a winter as we have had, every snowflake is a blessing that we're receiving.

Michael Grant:
All right. Current reservoir levels. What are the projects lakes at?

Charlie Ester:
CRP lakes are 76\% full. So we have an abundant water supply this year. We're not panicking because of the dry weather. We're certainly looking at long range planning efforts, though, if the drought continues. And a lot of folks believe the drought could continue for another 10-years. Now that doesn't mean every year is going to be dry. One of these years will be another one like last year, which we used to refill the reservoirs. But for the long-term I think we'll have more dry years. And now fortunately the Colorado watershed is looking pretty good, too. Inflow to lake Powell should be right around normal, maybe a little below but enough to fill the water stores.

Michael Grant:
All right. Well thank goodness of last year otherwise we would have been bone dry. Charlie, thank you very much. You can see transcripts of Horizon and find out about upcoming topics on our website. That address is azpbs.org. Click on Horizon and then follow the links.

Nadine Arroyo:
The debate over Arizona' s k-12 education continues in the legislature. We'll talk with legislators to get an update on initiatives, bills and the E.L.L. program. And women in work will gather to explore the future of women in the Arizona work force. Join us Wednesday at 7 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
On Thursday we talk about a proposal to privatize Arizona's prisons and a bill that deals with breastfeeding in public. Thank you very much for joining us this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

spring Weather


  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the U.S. spring outlook at a news conference Thursday. Find out what Arizona can expect in terms of weather this year. Also, Charlie Ester, the manager of Water Resource Operations with Salt River Project talks about our water supplies.
Guests:
  • Senator Jon Kyl -
  • Charlie Ester - manager, Water Resource Operations, Salt River Project


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon. Border security is one of the top issues being dealt with by members of congress, including Arizona's own Jon Kyl. He joins us in the studio to talk about that and other issues. Plus, as we head into what is typically our state's driest time of the year, we'll get an update on our drought and our water supply. Those stories next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the Friends of 8, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. Complicated immigration border security issues that could directly impact our state are being discussed in the United States senate. How should congress reform our current immigration policy and secure our border, while dealing with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here? Joining us to talk about federal immigration legislation and some of the other key topics on Capitol Hill is U.S. Senator Jon Kyl. Senator, good to see you.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Michael, good to be with you.

Michael Grant:
And you brought rain.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
I'd like to take credit for it.

Michael Grant:
Well at least it wasn't much of a storm today. But we'll be talking later in the program.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Very interesting to hear that, yes.

Michael Grant:
In fact, why don't we start with that instead of immigration? But I want to get to that shortly. I think there's a two-fold concern about the condition of the state's forest. One was the president's budget proposal for next fiscal year. And as I understand it, actually the proposal was to cut back on firefighting efforts?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Well, it didn't increase the firefighting efforts. And it also I think shorted the management that is to say the pretreatment of the forest, thinning it out so fires don't have as much of a head start opportunity. In both cases the budget is not adequate and we're trying to do what we can to beef it up.

Michael Grant:
And on a more current basis, is there also a concern about where resources are being deployed and whether or not Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, the west, is going to have adequate resources?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
I raised that question at a hearing we had a couple of weeks ago with Mark Ray who's the assistant secretary of the department of agriculture in charge of this. And he assured us the prepositions of both the equipment like the aircraft and the special crews, the hotshot crews that go in to attack a fire right away has already occurred in the state of Arizona because they well understand the first fires will be here. So they may as well preposition the bulk of the equipment down here. But while these recent rains and snows have given us a big break, I think it's pretty clear we're still going to have a long and tough fire season and we'll probably going to need all the assets we can get.

Michael Grant:
Both of us are long-term residents. I really cannot recall -- they had bad fire seasons before, but I don't think I can recall a situation where really had the combination of bad, higher elevation forest health and bad desert elevation capability and potential as well.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Yes. To have a fire start on February 5th, which is when the fire just northwest of Payson started and actually move downhill when the temperatures in the evening were freezing, and just think of that. I mean normally those are conditions that would just put a fire right out it. Was so dry that the fire burned at that point. So we know that even though we've got a little bit of a reprieve with this recent weather it's going to be a very difficult season. And we'll continue to make sure the resources are here to fight those fires when they come. But again, long range we shouldn't be worried about fighting the fires. We should be able to treat the forest so when the fire comes it basically has nowhere to go. Do the thinning, do the prescribed burning, so that the forest is not as susceptible to those fires in the first instance. We've got hundreds of thousands of acres to treat. We've got to get about that job.

Michael Grant:
What's the status on that issue? I know the forest service was looking for greater flexibility to cut longer-term contracts, which people who do that kind of activity say, I got to have a longer commitment than two years. Where are we on that?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
We passed the healthy forest legislation, which makes it more difficult to sue to stop one of these treatment projects. And that has helped but it hasn't stopped the lawsuits. And as a result, the forest service is still pretty weary about putting these projects out to bid and moving forward with them. And yet in Arizona on the Tonto forest, for example, I was up in Payson talking to the ranger there, we've got thousands of thousands of acres that are what they call "Nepa ready", in other words it's already gone through the environmental review. They're ready to do them. And it's a matter of getting money from the forest service to begin the treatment here. So once again a lot of it gets right down to money. And we are trying to do our very west best to get much of it done here as possible. Obviously you'd like to have gotten it done before the fire season starts because once it starts, of course you can't go into the forest and do that kind of work.

Michael Grant:
Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned. She's been fairly key the past few years on several water issues along the Colorado. Does her resignation impact what seems to be some progress being made in that quarter?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
She's been very good. By the way, she's been a big advocate of forest health and forest management, too. She's been very good. She's had good staff. She understood the issues about Arizona's water battles and the big settlement that we got done. She was very helpful in that regard. Dirk Kemp Thorn, the president's nominee for that position is a westerner, governor from Idaho. If he's not quite as familiar with these issues as Gale Norton was, he'll have staff that I think will be. There's a person that's been nominated to become the solicitor of the department of interior, it's main lawyer, David Burnhart, who's very helpful for us in getting the settlement done for Arizona and if he's confirmed in that position that will be a big help.

Michael Grant:
Okay. So smooth transition, for him. Let's shift to immigration. Procedurally where are we on the immigration bill in the senate?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
We're in a week of so-called recess right now where we come home and visit with our constituents. Next Monday the judiciary committee on which I said will spend the day trying to finish up the so-called mockup of the immigration bill. Then Tuesday morning or thereabout we will start on the floor of the senate debating that legislation. We have set aside two weeks to do that. Now neither one-day in the committee nor two weeks on the floor are probably adequate to do a good job on this. But we're going to do our best. Because we've got to make sure that we've got all the pieces in place. Securing the border is not enough. We've also got to have good enforcement in the interior, at the work place. We have to have a workable system for hiring workers when we need them on a temporary basis. We need to be able to confirm their eligibility for employment and we need, as you said, find a way to deal with the 11 to 15 million people already here illegally, several of those are very difficult issues. And even if we all agreed on what the solution was, its complexity makes it difficult to write. So while we need to be getting about doing it, it's a very difficult task. It's going to be hard for us to accomplish.

Michael Grant:
Let's bust up some of those issues and take at least a quick look at individual component parts. I understand that Chairman Arlen Spectre of the Judiciary Committee trying to put together what he considers a compromise between your and Senator Cornyn's bill and the McCain-Kennedy bill on the whole guest worker program. Is it satisfactory? Is it a compromise in your opinion?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
The compromise pleases no one.

Michael Grant:
Then maybe it's an adequate compromise.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Well, maybe. But it's a moving target as well as it should be. There are other pieces of legislation in there, too. So basically Spectre has taken pieces from all the different bills and tried to meld them together. When we left Washington last Thursday, those of us who were most directly involved, Senator McCain, myself, Senator Cornyn, Senator Brownback, our staffs got together. They're going to be meeting with other folks, Spectre's and Kennedy's staff tomorrow and so on, to try to find ways of getting common ground so we could resolve the toughest issues. The easier issues I think we can resolve fairly well. But exactly how the get worker program works and how to deal with the illegal immigrants are the two toughest pieces.

Michael Grant:
But there would be a temporary worker program; there would be a waiting period involved. What about the fine aspect? One aspect of the McCain proposal.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
If I could difficult it just into two cases, sure. Most people in the senate, not necessarily the House of Representatives but the senate believe we need a temporary worker program for prospective workers. And it could be available for existing illegal immigrants population as well to participate in a legal way. So that temporary worker program needs to be written. It's not going to be easy. But I think we all agree that something like that is necessary but it's all got to be done within the law. Then the question is, how do you deal with the population of the illegal immigrants. And there is one view that says, if they pay a fine and don't violate the law and continue to work here that they should be on what's called a path to citizenship to get a green card, which entitles them to legal permanent residence and eventually become a citizen. I don't agree with that proposition. There's another view that says they should all go home immediately. I don't think that's practical. The legislation that Senator Cornyn and I have developed allows people an opportunity to stay here for up to 5 years, but we encourage them to go back to their country of origin at some point, hopefully before then. They would still be eligible to participate as guest workers under the temporary worker program. That way you're not forcing everyone to go home immediately. And there are incentives for people to remove themselves from the country so they can come back and work legally. Now, there are a lot of problems with all of these different bills. And I am pleased to work with those who have a different point of view because I don't think any of us can contend we've got it exactly right. And I'm willing to work to try to reach middle ground. Because here's something both Senator McCain and I agree on. We may differ on some of the details but we are absolutely committed to getting a comprehensive bill this year if at all possible. People in other states are not as committed. We say, look. This is a problem in Arizona that grows bigger every day.

Michael Grant:
The house is not very friendly to several of the proposals that you just outlined?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
That's right. The house want to do enforcement first and then see what happens. I don't think that's realistic. Because as I said, the longer we wait the bigger the problem is to solve. So I'd rather tackle it right now, even though it's not easy to find that common ground to work through it.

Michael Grant:
Why doesn't this go to -- now, I admit I lost track of where the house was. I thought the house was poised to actually pass a product a couple of months ago.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
They did. They actually did.

Michael Grant:
Did this go to a conference committee?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
It would. It would go to a conference committee. The house bill actually has a lot of good features relating to enforcement.

Michael Grant:
Strong on border security.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
It is. And we're pretty well agreed within the senate. In fact, we've done a lot of things in the senate now that will strengthen border security. It's now a matter of time for those things to kick in for the new border patrol agents that we authorized to be trained up and deployed, aircraft to be put in place, for the additional fencing moving out from some of the communities to actually be built and so on. Those things will happen. Now the focus ought to be on a worker eligibility program or verification program, a temporary worker program and a resolution of the illegal immigrant population.

Michael Grant:
Increased employer sanctions as well? Does that go hand in with that?

Sen. Jon Kyl:
I think it does but there are two parts to it. You can't make the employer the cop here. The government needs to decide whether someone is eligible to be employed or not. And when that person applies for a job a very simple document and number are electronically entered. The employer basically gets a green light or a red light. And it's electronically noted so if the green light comes up the employer can hire you and then it doesn't matter what happens later, you're okay. But if you hire a person when the numbers punched in comes up negative, don't hire that person because there will be substantial fines.

Michael Grant:
Critics here locally, there was some legislation that was introduced to that effect in the Arizona legislature. Critics here said, hold it. That federal verification system is not what it is cracked up to be, at least at the volumetric levels you would need if you were going to deploy it.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Right now it's a pilot project.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
And it will have to be expanded. And also cleaned up and modified in some respects. But it is a system, which I believe can be made to work to verify eligibility for employment. We've got literally millions of bad social security numbers out there now or people working under false numbers. That system needs to be cleaned up. It can be done and that's a critical component of any comprehensive immigration reform.

Michael Grant:
Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, we appreciate you very much joining us.

Sen. Jon Kyl:
Thank you, Michael

Michael Grant:
You call-or might call them "snow birds." Officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who came to Phoenix to announce their 2006 U.S. spring outlook. The announcement came only a few days after a storm with rain and desert snow ended a record-setting rainless streak. In collaboration with the national interagency fire center, the agency paints a fairly pessimistic picture in terms of drought.

Larry Lemmons: Drought conditions will persist in Arizona after improvement in the short-term. That's the verdict from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which held a news conference last week in Phoenix to announce the national spring outlook.

Gen. D.L. Johnson: Just last week NOAA's data center reported this was the fifth driest record in the United States since 1895. It has also been one of the driest periods in the southwest and parts of the southern plain in the last 100-years. Before last weekend, Phoenix hadn't seen any rain since October 18, 2005. That's a staggering 143-days without a trace of precipitation. That clearly broke the previous record of 101 consecutive days. The 1.14 inches of rain Phoenix received last weekend broke this streak and the 1 to 4 feet of snow that fell in the higher terrain of Arizona eased the short-term fire potential and may provide some runoff water supplies. But even after the storm in mid-March, the mountain snow pack stood at one tenth to one half of the normal across Arizona and New Mexico and the dry season is approaching. In short, Phoenix and the rest of the southwest have severe drought conditions that are expected to persist, maybe intensify during the period April through June.

Larry Lemmons:
A number of factors are contributing to drought persistence, most notable a La Nina cycle and global climate change.

Ed O'Lenic:
La Nina has been present and active since January. And the question always arises, global climate change. What impact does that have? Well, it's a scientific fact. It's something that's out there. It's operating in the background. However, the regional impacts of this phenomenon have not yet been resolved. So our forecast tools will account for this to the extent that the science has put that capability into our forecast tool. That's why we have to continue to do research. Finally, again, random variability is always at work. And this is a way of saying the forecasts always have some uncertainty associated with them.

Larry Lemmons:
What this means of course in the months ahead is an elevated danger of wildfire.

Rick Ochoa:
So if this rainfall that we've had in the southwest is going to do is push back the fire season, the main fire season in places like Arizona and western New Mexico until April. But unfortunately, it's also going to help to grow some more grass for the area, which is going to be fuel for the summer fires. One of the factors in this fire season is also the carryover effect from last year's very wet winter and summer monsoon.

Larry Lemmons:
The fact of a drought also means that despite the availability of water today, planners must still manage a finite resource for a growing desert population.

Michael Grant:
Joining us now to talk about our water supply for now in the near future is the manager of Water Resource Operations for the Salt River project, Charlie Ester. Charlie thanks for being here again.

Charlie Ester: Good evening, Michael.

Michael Grant: You were at that conference. It sounds like the NOAA guys weren't exactly bubbling over with good news.

Charlie Ester:
No. I think they were painting a realistic picture, though.

Michael Grant:
What in particular, Charlie, seems to be -- La Nina was mentioned there. And we've heard about sort of a persistent high-pressure ridge. A combination of all that? Has that been this winter's weather story?

Charlie Ester:
I think so. The La Nina pattern tends to produce a high-pressure ridge over the southwest. And it's just been very persistent this year. And therefore we just didn't get any precipitation events until a couple weeks ago. The problem we're facing this year, though, is a dual-fold result of the wet winter we had last year. There's still a lot of vegetation in the desert that's standing up that's ready to burn right now. So unfortunately we have fire risk from border to border, north and south, east to west this year. Every community in the state is at risk of some fire.

Michael Grant:
Well, obviously we're all familiar with the fact it's been dry around here. What was the final stat us?

Charlie Ester:
143-days.

Michael Grant:
143-days? But it seems to me that one of the other problems associated with this was it was warmer than normal. So referring to the vegetation that you just mentioned, you know, not only is it wet but it also has had a prolonged drying trend.

Charlie Ester:
That's right. This winter is one of the warmest ever. Unfortunately we've been having a string of those. But when you have dry weather as a result of high pressure you tend to have warmer weather. And just today at the governor's healthy forest and safety conference in Prescott, one member of the presenting team showed a graph that Arizona's high country average temperature was about 8 degrees above normal. And for the forest that's a huge delta. That's a huge difference.

Michael Grant:
Well, and the February fire, I recall the people up there were saying that they were experiencing conditions in February about what they would normally expect to find in June.

Charlie Ester:
That's correct, yes. Fuel moisture levels prior to these recent storms were approaching all-time highs not only for February but also for June. And that is just the first time that's ever been recorded. Fortunately the storms now will have helped that a little bit. But some of these fuels like the large logs that Senator Kyl mentioned that were burning, those take about a month to moisten up. So even though we've had rain for a couple of weeks they won't get to the saturated level that we'd like them to be. So unfortunately when the snows do melt in the next few weeks, our fire danger is going to go right back up pretty quickly.

Michael Grant:
Obviously there was the bark beetle infestation I think primarily 2 to 3-years ago. Does that also put a different complex on this as well? There's a lot of dead wood out there.

Charlie Ester:
There's a lot of dead wood out there but still the majority of trees are alive. And the fear is that this warm winter will again activate the bark beetles and the trees should be relatively stressed from the dry weather. And that's a perfect combination for an outbreak.

Michael Grant:
Now, let's go to water supply. I seem to recall, Charlie, seeing perhaps in late January or so a story in the newspaper showing snowfall accumulations. And they were just depressing.

Charlie Ester:
Dismal at best. You know, we get most of our water supply from melting snow in central Arizona. And as early as the March 1 survey, the snow pack across the salt and Verde watershed, which of course was most interested in, was at 0\%. We have never seen that before. Now, with the recent storm it has jumped up to just under 50\%. But that's very misleading because we've taken a dry watershed and put snow on top of it. That's not the same as slowly accumulating the snow pack over a season. So the ground underneath the snow is still very dry. And when it melts my suspicion is it's going to absorb all the water and will be-- which is good for the watershed. But I don't think there'll be any left for runoff into the reservoir system.

Michael Grant:
Specifically I think we heard -- I want to say that storm a couple of weeks ago produced I think it was almost 5 feet in the snow bowl area. Did it bless northern Arizona sort of uniformly? I mean, out to the White Mountains, Prescott, and those kinds of things?

Charlie Ester:
It really was a fantastic storm. And I don't think we could have ordered one better. It did. It went from the Grand Canyon all the way to the White Mountains and on into New Mexico. And every place above about 6,000 feet had about two feet of snow. And if you were in a favored spot, three to four feet was not uncommon. Like you said, Snow Bowl had close to 5 feet and there were places in the White Mountains had over 4 feet as well.

Michael Grant:
Now, did this last much smaller storm here in the past 3 or 4 days storms, actually a couple of systems, did that deliver much?

Charlie Ester:
We've added about a half-inch of water content over the watershed since the big storm. And while that doesn't sound like a whole lot, what it is, is coming on top of the snow that already fell. So that's good. Certainly we would have liked to have a lot more. But after as terrible a winter as we have had, every snowflake is a blessing that we're receiving.

Michael Grant:
All right. Current reservoir levels. What are the projects lakes at?

Charlie Ester:
CRP lakes are 76\% full. So we have an abundant water supply this year. We're not panicking because of the dry weather. We're certainly looking at long range planning efforts, though, if the drought continues. And a lot of folks believe the drought could continue for another 10-years. Now that doesn't mean every year is going to be dry. One of these years will be another one like last year, which we used to refill the reservoirs. But for the long-term I think we'll have more dry years. And now fortunately the Colorado watershed is looking pretty good, too. Inflow to lake Powell should be right around normal, maybe a little below but enough to fill the water stores.

Michael Grant:
All right. Well thank goodness of last year otherwise we would have been bone dry. Charlie, thank you very much. You can see transcripts of Horizon and find out about upcoming topics on our website. That address is azpbs.org. Click on Horizon and then follow the links.

Nadine Arroyo:
The debate over Arizona' s k-12 education continues in the legislature. We'll talk with legislators to get an update on initiatives, bills and the E.L.L. program. And women in work will gather to explore the future of women in the Arizona work force. Join us Wednesday at 7 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
On Thursday we talk about a proposal to privatize Arizona's prisons and a bill that deals with breastfeeding in public. Thank you very much for joining us this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Have a great one. Good night.

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