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Posts Tagged ‘Santa Cruz’

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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