Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gov's Council OKs new protections for AZ waters

Fossil Creek AZ

RELATED STORY, 12/3: Pima County hands out mining permit for Davidson Canyon.

PHOENIX -- Today, the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved adoption of the Final Rule for new surface water quality standards for Arizona’s rivers, streams, and lakes. It was approved on a 3-1 vote.

“We are pleased that the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council approved this rule to protect Arizona’s waters despite a last minute attempt to derail it by some mining interests, Pima County, Salt River Project, and other industry representatives,” said Sandy Bahr, Conservation Outreach Director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “Adoption of this rule is an important step forward to provide stronger standards for water quality, helping to ensure that both the public’s health and the quality of the environment are adequately protected.”

The rule will be final 60 days from today and includes important provisions to designate Fossil Creek and Davidson Canyon as Outstanding Arizona Waters. Designation as an Outstanding Arizona Water means the government cannot permit actions that will degrade the water quality of these creeks. Fossil Creek is a major tributary of the Verde River and forms the boundary to the Coconino National Forest on the north and the Tonto National Forest on the south as well as the boundary between Gila and Yavapai counties. In 2005, full flows were restored to the creek when the Arizona Public Service agreed to decommission its dam. The creek supports a diversity of plants and wildlife, including native fishes. Davidson Canyon, in Pima County southeast of Tucson, is a main tributary of Cienega Creek, which is also designated as an Outstanding Arizona Water. The canyon contains spring-fed perennial water and cottonwood-willow riparian habitat that provides homes to numerous species of wildlife.

“The Sierra Club strongly supports designation of both Davidson Canyon and Fossil Creek as Outstanding Arizona Waters to ensure that these unique areas are protected for future generations of Arizonans as well as for the plants and wildlife they sustain,” said Bahr. “Water is precious in our desert environment, and we need to ensure that these ribbons of life are given the care they deserve.”

The Pinal Creek Group (representing mining interests), Cal Portland Cement, Superstition Mountain Facility District #1, and Pima County, among other entities, were seeking a delay of the rule as they opposed some of the more protective standards, including those that protect the biological integrity of the waters. The Ak Chin Tribe, Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Vail Preservation Society, Empire Fagan Coalition, and Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Coalition, among others, joined the Sierra Club in supporting the rule package.

- from SC

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