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Sun, May 31

Drought’s impact on our area<br>makes it top story of the year

For two days last week, I re-lived 2002. Putting together this year-in-review issue, I needed to go through each of the 52 newspapers and compile a list of my top 10 stories, as well as the reviews you see on the following pages.

This was my fourth top 10 and it was not easy this year. In 1999 and 2000, Canyon Forest Village issues were my top choice for story of the year. In 1999, the Forest Service approved of CFV and in 2000, voters disapproved.

The top story for 2001 was the impact suffered at Grand Canyon from the Sept. 11 attacks. To be honest, I’m not sure if our area has ever recovered.

For this past year’s top 10, I didn’t hesitate when it came to the top story. I believe the ongoing drought and wildfire danger we all went through last summer affected everybody in some fashion.

When compiling the top 10, that’s one of the criteria I tried to keep in mind — its impact on our residents. But there are other things I considered, such as newsworthiness and how much feedback I received after a particular story came out.

The drought consisted of several stories within the story. A lot of us were a little nervous during the height of the drought, especially with extensive television coverage of the Prescott and Rodeo-Chediski fires.

The No. 2 story on my list ended up being visitation. Grand Canyon National Park suffered its lowest visitation numbers in a decade in 2001 and as this year progressed, those statistics were not looking any better.

The final numbers for 2002 have not yet been released, I’ll be looking for those in the next week or two. Most all of us are here because of the Grand Canyon and the tourism-related services we offer. If the numbers are down, our businesses will suffer. That makes it a significant story.

Three of my top 10 stories have something to do with the Colorado River. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that, but the river is an important subject to so many people. I guess you could say the Grand Canyon wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for the Colorado River.

My No. 3 story is the revival of the Colorado River Management Plan process. Lawsuits were settled early in the year, public meetings were scheduled and comments were solicited. Thousands of comments.

Down in the No. 9 spot is another river story, the planned experimental flood. The actual event will not occur until this month, but the importance of rebuilding an ecosystem damaged in the last 40 years cannot be ignored.

The other river story came in at No. 10 and involves the virus that hit. The illness affected less than 150 people, but it was an ongoing story most of the summer and will be again this spring.

Backing up to No. 4, the school district’s budgetary concerns caught my eye. I’ve seen the school board meetings evolve in the past year. "Can we afford it?" is a common question, which is appropriate.

In my opinion and without pointing fingers, there have been some mistakes made and I’m afraid of the consequences it could have on our public school district.

Harvey Butchart’s death comes in at No. 5. I received a lot of comments on that story and Harvey impacted a lot of lives around here.

The overflights-natural quiet issue follows at No. 6, the school’s attempts to obtain forest land is No. 7 and the impressive feat of making three consecutive rescues over four weeks is No. 8.

Your top 10 list may differ from mine, we all have our opinions and arguments. As for 2003, let’s hope we have many more good news stories than bad news stories.

(Brad Fuqua is editor of the Grand Canyon News).

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