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Posts Tagged ‘Environmental’

28th February
written by Mike

From Antiplaner.com – The state of California has a $41 billion budget deficit. This is even worse when you realize its total budget is $143 billion, so the deficit is is 29 percent of the budget.

The planning advocates who frequent this blog will deny it, but it is no coincidence that California has the strongest smart-growth laws in the nation and the worst deficit of any state in the nation.

Land-use restrictions that crammed 94.5 percent of the state’s residents into just 5.1 percent of the state’s land also made the state’s housing the least-affordable in the nation — and some California cities the least-affordable in the world. This led to an exodus of people and jobs. The bursting of the housing bubble devastated many recent home buyers   and took the state’s (and world’s) economy with them.

Meanwhile, the state has overspent on high-cost transportation systems in five major urban areas, while stinting on the forms of transportation that people actually use. (Californians travel more than 400 billion passenger miles by auto in urban areas and take transit only 7 billion passenger miles.) This did little to relieve the traffic that makes Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland the worst-congested urban areas in the nation while it added to the state’s deficits.

Tucson Choices – Recipe for disaster:

Does this post sound familiar? 86% of Pima County land is owned by a government entity. Pima County has already committed $200m to buy the remaining 14%. Will the voters approve another $500m to run up the credit card for more open space?  Less land, higher cost to develop (sewer hook up fees, impact fees, time to finish developments) and what you get is housing that becomes unaffordable to our working poor community.  Add in a dash of NIMBY from the City of Tucson neighborhood activist and what’s a community to do? Without leadership, I’m afraid we’ll have more of he same.

As if that wasn’t enough – From today’s LA Times

State caught in avalanche of job losses

Conditions are even worse in Los Angeles County, which saw its unemployment rate jump to 10.5% in January from 9.2% the month before.

The deep job losses follow a sharp drop in the gross domestic product — the value of all goods and services produced — in the waning months of 2008. Nationwide, GDP shrank at an annual rate of 6.2% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That was far worse than the 3.8% drop the agency had estimated, and the biggest decrease since 1982.

Paul Policarpio knew it was only a matter of time before he would be laid off.


26th February
written by Arizona Kid

Twenty-five years back, there were a clutch of prime mantras among the activist set: Growth could be stopped. Cattle-grazing was archaic. Mining was a goner. Developers could be battled to a standstill, and the Pusch Ridge bighorns would tough it out.Today, folks who built below Pusch Ridge adore the foothills wildlife–until it nibbles their bougainvillea. More habitat has vanished from this county than perhaps ever existed in some states. Cows are now seen as bulwarks against bulldozers. As for bighorn sheep, well, somebody figures they might have seen a footprint up beyond those pretty cul-de-sacs sometime back.

Growth has continued at freakish levels, although a crashing real estate market offers some hope. Still, even wayward water supplies haven’t truly threatened this juggernaut; the housing industry, along with local government, still huddles under the Central Arizona Project’s rippling chimera.

Yet time marches on. And some iconic battles from those days–stopping the UA telescopes on Mount Graham, for example, or blocking developer Don Diamond’s Rocking K Ranch exurb–weren’t exactly won, but they weren’t totally lost, either.

The Mount Graham mountaintop telescopes are nearly due for review by the Coronado National Forest, and UA astronomers may lack the political muscle of yesteryear. Diamond did toss a few acreage bones to Saguaro National Park East, and bankrolled the Rincon Institute to cope with what his avarice had wrought.

Meanwhile, some things have actually improved. Though our fair city has plumped beyond reason, one recent UA analysis reveals that Arizona’s population grew by a measly 1.6 percent in the last year, the lowest rate since the blistering recession in the 1990s.

And although we’ve had decades to ponder the mine tailings south of Tucson (“Manmade Mountains!” one real estate brochure enthused), citizens are tightly organized against a new mine proposed for Rosemont Valley in the Santa Rita Mountains.

So there is reason to hope. Indeed, tempered optimism is raison d’ètre among most conservationists. Among them is Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. Campbell’s coalition has been knee-deep in prodding Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (one true victory-in-progress) down the road to reality.

Since its late 1990s inception as a wildlife-protection blueprint, the project has spent roughly $120 million from a voter-approved bond to purchase or lease more than 160,000 acres.

To Campbell, that 2004 bond–when citizens earmarked nearly $175 million to buy open space–was a turning point. “In Pima County, people have always been working on protecting open space,” she says, “and we’ve had open-space bonds for the last 20 years. But the big difference is the planning and scientific effort that went into this endangered-species project. The open space we targeted was key habitat for particular species, along with connectivity between some of the already preserved areas. So there was a little bit of method to the madness.

“It’s why there’s still a lot of support from the conservation community, and, I believe, the community at large,” Campbell says. “We’ve had the best available science behind the plan, and not politics. But what is different now is that we have the political will among citizens. Before, it was like beating our heads against the wall.”

Gayle Hartmann has also been in the trenches for eons, including a stint on the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission. She now heads Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a group fighting the proposed Rosemont mine. Hartmann heralds the addition of Sharon Bronson and Ray Carroll to the Pima County Board of Supervisors. Bronson was elected to the board in 1996, representing District 3; Carroll was appointed to represent District 4 a year later, and formally elected in 1998. Finally, says Hartmann, “there was a majority on the board that was really interested in conservation.”

Both supervisors championed open-space preservation, and Carroll has fought the proposed Rosemont mine with a notable vengeance. In 2007, he garnered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Outstanding Achievement award.

Equally notable is a shift among Green Valley constituents in District 4 who support him. “Twenty years ago, Green Valley was always against any type of open space,” says Hartmann, “and that’s completely changed. I don’t know if it’s because there are more people there, or if the people there are somewhat different. But his district–although they may be politically conservative in some ways–now seems very concerned about environmental issues.”

That concern has been critical in efforts to limit Santa Cruz Valley growth, including the vastly scaled-down Canoa Ranch development. Many Green Valley dwellers have also been bare-knuckle opponents of the Augusta mine.

Another positive change, says Hartmann, “is that we don’t have quite as nasty a war between the pro-growth and no-growth sides. To some degree, I guess the pro-growthers won. But at the same time, I think there’s a much better understanding of the need to do preservation and see that we have enough water.”

Roger Featherstone, a longtime anti-mining activist, has likewise been in the fray for years. Today, he relishes the heat generated against Canadian-owned Augusta Resource Corp., the mining company hoping to gut Rosemont Valley. He’s also guardedly cheered about legislation sifting through Congress to reform the despised 1872 Mining Act. This antiquated law gives mining companies such as Augusta near carte blanche in laying claim to public lands.

“Tucson has become a lot more conservation-minded in the last 20 years,” Featherstone says, “and I think that really shows in the Rosemont fight. You now have to look long and hard to find anybody who’s in favor of that mine.

“People understand,” he says, “that Tucson has different values now when it comes to raping and pillaging the land than they did 20 years ago.”

Despite that positive shift, says Featherstone, conservationists now face an unexpected foe: themselves. “Twenty-five years ago, when we were all here fighting, we worked really hard, and we had some successes and some real disappointments. But the pace wasn’t nearly so frenetic. We had time to sit on a porch at night with buddies and drink beer.

“But now we’ve really gotten into this ‘Alice in Wonderland’ syndrome, where we’re running twice as fast, and we’re still falling behind. I think the conservation community has to take a serious look at the fact that they’re working twice as hard and getting a lot less done–with a lot more stress and a lot more unhappiness.

“If I could start a new environmental trend,” he half-chuckles, “it would be modeled on the slow-food movement.”

So does long and languid dining offer any tantalizing hints for Tucson’s environmental future? We’ll pop a beer, gnaw a few pretzels and get back to you on that in about 25 years.

12th February
written by Land Lawyer

We ran a story a few weeks back about a developer in Marana that is full on in the middle of an environmental night mare. Read the original post HERE.  At issue in today’s paper is whether or not ’30 days to turn in your signatures’ to the issue on the ballot actually means 30 days or would 31 days be o.k.  Keep an eye on this one. If the court upholds their opinion not to allow the public vote to be counted the enviro’s will go to plan ‘B’.  For plan ‘B’ click HERE and read another saga going on between the County/City and SDCP.

Development referendum on ballot; votes won’t count
By Shelley Shelton
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 02.12.2009

A referendum on whether a Marana housing development in an environmentally sensitive area can move forward as planned is on the town’s March primary ballot, but none of the votes on the issue will count.
“At this point, there is no referendum for the primary election,” said Gilbert Davidson, Marana town manager.
The developer has been wrangling in court for more than a year because it says the petition that led to the referendum was filed two days after the 30-day deadline for such petition drives.
The 30-day deadline fell on a Saturday, when town offices were closed, so the town set the deadline for the following Monday.
Lawyers for the developer, Red Point Development, have argued that state law allows a petition deadline to be extended only if the original deadline falls on a Sunday or a holiday.
As of December, it looked like the referendum would move forward, and it was set to be placed on the ballot.
But two weeks ago on Jan. 27, Peter J. Eckerstrom, presiding judge for the Arizona Court of Appeals, reversed that decision but didn’t say anything else about it.
Meanwhile, the ballots had already gone to the printer, so the referendum is on them even though the votes won’t be tallied.
“All we have now is the ruling that the lower court was reversed,” said Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, which is one of the development plan’s opponents. “We don’t know what points the court reversed on.”
Opponents are concerned that the rezoning approved by the Marana Town Council in October 2007 — allowing for up to 311 homes on 133 acres on the east side of Interstate 10, north of West Cortaro Farms Road — could do extensive damage to Hardy Wash, which runs east through the property.
The group still hopes to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court in time to get the issue on Marana’s May general election ballot, Campbell said.
It’s unclear when the deadline for such an appeal would be, said Larry Kreis, general manager for Red Point.
Technically, the law says the plan’s opponents would have 10 days after a decision is rendered to file an appeal.
But because the judge hasn’t released the details of his ruling, it’s possible the clock hasn’t started on that yet.
Campbell said a Monday phone call between the judge and all the parties’ attorneys indicated there’s not a timetable in place.
Meanwhile, Kreis said the development company is moving forward with the process that developers must go through with the town.
The rezoning was just the first part, he said.
Some of the environmentalists’ concerns have been addressed in discussions that were happening while the court case was pending, and other concerns will be raised in the planning and zoning process, he said.
Because of the economy, nobody is in a big hurry to go and start building anything anyway, Kreis said.
● Contact reporter Shelley Shelton at 618-1921 or sshelton@azstarnet.com

8th December
written by madge

The Santa Cruz river’s recent ruling as navigable brings a whole slew of federal regulations down upon the government and building community.  The Santa Cruz which starts in the San Fernando Valley west of Seirra Vista travels down to Sonora Mexico then back up to the west Tucson area. The river looses steam north of Tubac and is re-fed water using the Pima County sewer systems effluent fed waste water discharge. 

There was a move under foot to classify it at a ‘navigable water way’ which puts a number of federal requirements around anyone looking to build over, near or around the federal designated water way.  The practical applications of the Santa Cruz river being navigable are laughable. Click HERE to see an AZ Star’s reporter, Tony Davis’ attempt to canoe down the ‘river’.

Some have eluded that the navigable designation is an end around way to limit the possibility of Rosemont Copper Mine of ever opening. The unintended consequence may be additional cost put on the taxpayers of Pima County to build bridges to cross over the navigable water way. Maybe draw bridges will become a part of our desert landscape.

Erica Meltzer ran a story HERE explaining the ramifications of the ruling.

Home-builder organizations fought hard against treating streams with intermittent flows, like the Santa Cruz, as navigable waters. Reached Thursday, representatives of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders said they were unaware of the decision.
SAHBA Vice President Roger Yohem said his organization could not comment until its lawyers reviewed the decision.
Environmentalists and some elected officials believe Pima County also lobbied against the designation to prevent a drawn-out permitting process from slowing down county construction projects.
That feeling eased only after the Board of Supervisors in August passed a resolution supporting the designation. County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said county staff only wanted timely decisions on permits, and he cleared staff of any inappropriate actions.
Huckelberry said Thursday the decision is “fine and what we asked for.”
Supervisor Richard Elías, who pushed for the county to support the designation, said he was pleased but the county needs to keep pushing for the entire river to be protected.
Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, lobbied for the designation and wants the entire Santa Cruz eventually to be protected.
“This was really good news to have back the protections that we lost when the Corps rescinded the designation,” Campbell said. “I see this as an important interim step while they study whether the rest of the river should have this protection. I’m very hopeful for the whole river to get the traditional navigable waterway, but with this, all the tributaries should be protected because they all eventually touch these two portions.”
Some of the comments to the Star’s online story:
10. Comment by wit w. (Wit) — December 5,2008 @ 6:04AM
Ratings:   -15 +33

‘navigability’ clouds the issue here. What matters is that our ground water recharge comes mostly from these river beds. Rivers here rarely carry pollutants out to the ocean, unlike most rivers in the world. Instead, the pollutants sink into the soil and then we may drink them.

The Rosemont mine must be stopped for this reason alone. Polluted runoff from the mine would drain right into the Pontano Wash, Rillito River, and then the Santa Cruz.


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18. Comment by ralfie 1. (ralfie12) — December 5,2008 @ 7:08AM

Ratings:   -17 +9
 There is 91 cubic miles of underground water between San Manuel and Strawberry, AZ.Larger than Lake Erie! I have suggested numerous times that we pipe it to Reddington Pass and recharge our aquifer. Water experts say we have no room for it. When will we? 

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51. Comment by John H. (Chaos Keep) — December 5,2008 @ 11:40AM

Ratings:   -8 +2
 I agree that particular portions of the Santa Cruz River need to be protected. However, the intent of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act was for COMMERCIAL NAVAGABILITY. The Santa Cruz River is not, and has not been commercially navagabile for 10,000 years or more.This is a clear cut case where for the government (and others) the ENDS are justifying the MEANS. That is never a good sign. 

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55. Comment by E H. (EanieMeanie) — December 5,2008 @ 12:17PM

Ratings:   -8 +6
 Every bridge, bank stabilization, road crossing, road widening, culvert, and home development, within jurisdictional waters will now require additional scrutiny. You might say that people shouldn’t build in a waterway anyways. Well wait and see what the Army Corps thinks is jurisditional waters. If the wash is wider than your hands stretched out……it’s jurisdictional. And since the Santa Cruz is now a navigatable waterway, any disturbance in the washes near it will be considered significant…. Have fun! Good luck in aleviating traffic by building bridges. ‘Cause you do not have the budget for additional red tape. 

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Navigable Timeline from the Star:

Navigability timeline

• June 2006: The U.S. Supreme Court limits the scope of Clean Water Act protection for isolated rivers, streams and wetlands. Justice Anthony Kennedy writes that they must have a significant connection to “a navigable waterway, in the traditional sense,” to be legally entitled to federal protection.

• May 2008: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decides that 54 miles of the Santa Cruz River north and south of Tucson deserve classification as a traditional navigable waterway, and, thus, regulation under the Clean Water Act.

• July 2008: The Corps suspends the river’s navigable determination for at least 60 days as part of a broader, national review of navigability.

• July 2008: The Pima County Board of Supervisors votes to conduct an audit of its own staff because memos show some staffers opposed the navigability status without telling the board.

• August 2008: Two U.S. House committee chairmen vote to investigate the Corps’ handling of the Santa Cruz decision, at the request of Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Tucson.

• August 2008: The Board of Supervisors supports navigability for a much longer stretch of the Santa Cruz, from the Mexican border to the Pinal County line. The Environmental Protection Agency moves to take over handling of the navigability issue from the Corps.


In the 1940s, the population boom — driven by military growth and availability of air conditioning — began along the Santa Cruz, especially in Tucson, which depended on groundwater. The ongoing depletion of the aquifer is a major reason the Santa Cruz dried out except after storms.

We stepped into the canoe. It sank into sand. We couldn’t move …

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