12 Jun 2009

Mountaintop Removal -- AZ Edition

A cement company has applied for a permit to mine limestone in Arizona's Davidson Canyon, a "pristine water cachement." Here is an article on the planned mining, and here is a website opposing the mining. The comments to the article are especially revealing of the issues and arguments of the pro-growth (anti-backwards) vs. pro-environment (anti-death) camps.

Whatever. These quotations are precious:
Article: Company officials said their Davidson Canyon crossing will largely be an expansion of an existing crossing, and that disturbance will be temporary because the area will be restored to its original condition once the quarrying is finished.

USACE email: They have not applied for any permits yet. I have sent them a warning that their work in uplands is predecisional and while we cannot prevent it, it is predecisional and they are working at their own risk if we deny their permit.
The first one is sad because it's so obvious that the company will never be able to restore the environment to its natural state (assuming they even try!)

The second one is scary because it implies that the company has started working in the area (without permission). I am not scared that they may get their permit denied. I am scared that they are "creating facts on the ground" that will render any decision moot.*

Bottom Line: Mining companies have long dominated land (and water) use in Arizona. It appears that they are, yet again, doing what they want, damn the laws, regulations, environment or will of the people. Sad.
* I use "creating facts on the ground" -- a popular way to describe Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank -- intentionally. That's because some people think that the deed, once done, is justified. Hitler thought so; Stalin thought so; Mao thought so; and so do Israelis, but note how their "democracy" delivers a blow that many thought only dictators were cruel enough to deliver. (Wait, hypocrisy check. Yes, the US did this to Iraq et al. Damn.) As a recent update to Israel's "facts on the ground" campaign, check out this report (via PW) of Israelis destroying Palestinian wells. That's inhumane.


  1. This is a travesty. The watershed will be impacted by this activity, not only now, but for future generations.

    The Davidson Canyon provides one the most important wildlife migration corridors in Southern Arizona, linking the Santa Rita Mountains to the Empire Mountains in the south to the Rincon Mountains in the north. The area provides important riparian habitat for a diverse flora and fauna, including priority vulnerable species listed under the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and threatened and endangered species or species of concern identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, including the lesser long-nosed bat, lowland leopard frog and the long fin dace, to name a few.

    Davidson Canyon contains perennial and intermittent reaches and springs, is in a free-flowing condition, and the water quality data provided by PAG indicates that the water quality is good. Davidson Canyon possesses attributes that make it of exceptional ecological significance. Davidson Canyon is one of the largest drainage into the Cienega Corridor. It is widely recognized as a major contributor to the continued health of the water aquifer in the Tucson Basin. One of the main tributaries to Cienega Creek, which recharges nearly 20% of Tucson's water supply.

    Surrounding lands (Bar V Ranch) have been acquired by Pima County as part of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

    The Davidson Canyon has been added to the Outstanding Arizona waters and affords up-front protections for these unique resources and prevent degradation of their water quality. It is clear we must work to preserve, rather than repair.


  2. ps - the site is not dedicated to anti mining. It is for community involvement and to raise awareness of issues. Am I anti mining?- No. Do I believe mining should not occur in the Davidson Canyon? - Yes.

    Watershed and conservation is the predominate issues for me why this is not a good proposal.

  3. Regarding Israel enforcing water agreements with the Palestinian Authority, you are wrong. We in Israel live on a shared very small aquifer, and water is measured to the drop. This is an arid country, without any substancial water resources. It is absolutely forbidden for anyone - Jew, Arab, Martian - to steal water from the common aquifer or from a river or from a reservoir or just stealing water from a municipal system by "pirate connection". It is also forbidden to steal water from the neighbor's connection, but those conflicts are left to the neighbors involved to fight out (the water is measured, so consumption is going to be paid anyway by somebody). In such a stressed water situation as ours, no one can be allowed to dig a well or put a pipe into a surface water body. Formerly, Arab justice meant death to the water criminal. Should Allah-forbid the Holy Quran's Sha'aria be established in this land, the criminal would have been beheaded and his family expulsed.

  4. As the story notes, the real problem here is the fact that this project is governed primarily by state and federal agencies with no real obligation to consult with local jurisdictions. The county has limited authority to regulate what happens on the land because the mining is occurring on state trust land. The state land dept., which manages the land, is obligated under state statute to obtain the highest possible return on the land (which could be subdivisions, arguably a worse outcome than a quarry) - a mandate that doesn't take ecosystem amenities into account. The corps and BLM are not really in the business of shutting down beneficial economic uses of federal land, only managing the way operations occur to minimize the damage. So they carry out their legal obligations, while ignoring the outcry from neighbors of the project who are rightfully worried about the impact on land values and ecological amenities in the area, but have almost no voice in the process. And this is just a small mining operation. The real outrage is a few miles south of this property where an open pit copper mine is in the planning stages on private, state, and Forest Service land. The FS says they have no authority to stop the mining project, only to regulate its operations. And again, the local jurisdictions primarily impacted by the project have almost no say at all under current law.

  5. CalPort may seem like a small operation, but they plan on mining on both sides of the Davidson Canyon. ADEQ has designated Davidson Canyon as an Outstanding Arizona Water in recognition of its excellent water quality and value as a water resource. ....Regulated discharge will not degrade existing water quality in the downstream OAW. Davidson Canyon in accordance with the Tier 3 anti degradation
    standard and any other applicable surface water quality standards. A water of such quality and ecological significance as to warrant special state measures to prevent its degradtion.

    The County has designated Davidson Canyon as a Biological Core area and an Important Riparian Area. Canyon's rare, perennial and low-evelation desert waters feed Cienega Creek, also state-designated as OAW.

    And to being a small mining operation, it is the cum. impacts. One being Charles Seel Mining Operation over 240 ac. need ingress/egress across the Davidson Canyon through CalPort. And Rosemont is less than 5 miles away, also wanting to put Dry tailing (never be done in the U.S.) in Barrel Canyon a large trib. into the Davidson Canyon.

    This is an important watershed.

  6. AS for your comments of the Rosemont Mine

    Last week, the U.S. Forest Service issued a statement claiming that it cannot block the proposed Rosemont mine project in the Santa Rita Mountains under environmental law. Representative Grijalva and Giffords subsequently sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stating their disagreement with the ruling. The forest service must exercise its full authority to prevent the degradation of lands associated with the mine. As proposed, it would have a profoundly negative impact on the surrounding communities and environment.


  7. @Everyone -- good comments.

    @J -- I'll blog on water and justice in Israel in the near future. (I should not have dropped such a heavy subject in as a comment!)

  8. Thank you for David for publishing this in your blog. This is not just a NIMBY issue, the ramifications of the CalPort, Seel, and Rosemont have far more implications of viewshed. The 3 proposed mines are along the Barrell Canyon and Davidson Canyon. This is referred to as the Cienega watershed / Corridor.


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