May 20, 2013 12:23 PM by Ryan Haarer
SIERRA VISTA - Running through highway 90 and into Mexico is a forest in the desert, the San Pedro, the last river of its kind in Southern Arizona.
"It's one of the last remaining green corridors for migrating birds between Texas and the Pacific coast," said Tricia Gerrodette. She is one of many who oppose pumping groundwater for a proposed development in Sierra Vista.
If the tribute housing development goes in several miles from the river, they'll need a water supply, and pueblo Del Sol Water will pump groundwater that would otherwise flow into the San Pedro.
"The wildlife would become more and more concentrated in areas where they could find water and food and shelter, and eventually most of that would die out too, like the Santa Cruz," claims Tricia.
Rick Coffman, Senior VP with Castle and Cooke, is in charge of Pueblo Del Sol Water and the proposed Tribute community. He says they've spent quite a bit of money on research to ensure the effect is minimal and that the 7,000 new homes and businesses will be sustainable.
"With all of the efforts that are being made locally it's expected that we will reach a point of balance where every year the amount of water being taken out of the aquifer is being replenished by recharge, by conservation," said Coffman.
He says the BLM and others have not proved that there will be any impact by pumping groundwater and the courts have so far agreed despite testimony by USGS scientists. Adequate water is defined as physically available, continuously available and legally available. Tricia says only two criteria have been met.
"It's the legally available, and that's because there are federally reserved water rights that say there must be flow in this river, congress says so. And that takes precedent over what ADWR says about water availability for new homes."
"I think it's exactly the opposite of that. i think the feds have overreached. They're stepping into areas of the state they do not belong. The Bureau of Land Management is attempting to secure a water right they have not yet quantified."
Environmental group Earthjustice recently filed their objection in Arizona Superior Court. Tricia and the Bureau of Land Management also filed in Superior Court on Friday. Now a civil matter, Tricia hopes the ruling will change. Rick says growth is coming with Tribute or not. He hopes the community will get a green light in order to move forward with an environmentally friendly way of life.