Tonto National Forest
Tonto National Forest

Without debate, the state Senate voted 18-12 Tuesday to allow state, county or local officials to access federal lands during an emergency.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said her measure is aimed at least in part at helping Tombstone, whose water supply in the Huachuca Mountains was damaged in the wake of a 2011 fire and the flooding that followed. That resulted in Volkswagen-size boulders crushing water pipes.

So far the U.S. Forest Service has refused to permit city crews to repair the site, it has rejected the city's claim that it has right to the water, having drawn it there since territorial days.

HB 2541 would permit local crews to not only access the land but bring “the equipment necessary to repair or address the emergency situation.” Foes of the measure, which already has been approved by the House, say it is likely unconstitutional.

It still needs a final roll-call vote of the Senate before going to the governor.

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