a map of arizona rivers and lakes

US Army Corps of Engineers Abandons Protecting Arizona

a map of arizona rivers and lakes

In Arizona 94 percent of streams are intermittent or ephemeral. Because these streams are evaporating for longer periods of time, it’s especially important to preserve what we have and keep sediment and chemicals from industries such as mining out of surface water.

These above ground rivers and streams also play an important role in restocking subterranean reserves called aquifers. These aquifers account for around 40 percent of Arizona’s water supply––valuable sources that make urban life, industry, and farming possible.

A geophysicist at Arizona State University, Megan Miller, reports that seasonal surface water is channeled into recharge basins, where the standing water seeps through the ground into Arizona aquifers.

Download a PDF of the Verde River Basin

Director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter, Sandy Bahr, claims that without the Clean Water Rule, urban developers or mining companies such as Hudbay Minerals could cover temporarily dry streambeds without a permit.

www.rosemontminetruth.com provides us with the following:
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry was particularly pointed in his criticism of the Army Corps’ decision and rationale to reverse a 2016 recommendation by its Los Angeles district office to deny the Rosemont project the Section 404 Clean Water Act permit.

Reducing the scope of analysis to only the initial vegetation clearing, grubbing and grading has enabled the (Army Corps) to essentially ignore the very significant adverse impact from mine development and operations, and grant the permit

Huckelberry states.

1873 Canon of the Colorado River
US Army Corp of Engineers photo

The Army Corps sharply reduced the scope of its analysis of the mine’s environmental impacts on seeps, washes, springs, and creeks, all considered “waters of the United States,” by not including hundreds of millions of tons of waste rock and mine tailings that will be dumped on more than 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest in its analysis.

Instead, the Army Corp only took into account the initial earthmoving and grading at the site and subsequent placement of “native” soil in the rare desert aquatic waterways. Any additional material placed on or behind the initial infill of the waterways was excluded from the Corps’ environmental impact analysis.

The Army Corps stated that because “the placement of excavating material from the mine pit would occur only after the waters of the U.S. have been filled with native material … the operation of mine is not within Corps jurisdiction.”

Huckelberry said the Army Corps was using a “tortured rationale” to exclude the mine’s operation from its jurisdiction. “This is perhaps the most bizarre rationale I have experienced in my 40 plus-year career in public service,” he stated. “If this stands up to legal scrutiny I would be surprised.”

There will be no water flowing in those washes and streams that will be filled, no water flowing into the recharge pools that power the aquifers. The loss of existing federal protections for ephemeral streams will affect Arizona, where the temporary waterways are a significant portion of the state’s hydrology.

Tell the EPA not to forget the needs of our driest states.

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

– Joni Mitchell

The EPA’s proposal is purely political, it disregards science. The Federal proposal will result in 75 percent of Arizona’s wetlands losing the Clean Water Act protections currently in place. These wetlands control runoff and reduce the sediment loads carried by the rivers, as well as providing habitat for the flora and fauna across the watershed.

a rainbow trout
Rainbow Trout

For the wildlife that depends on Arizona’s wetlands this will be an enviornmental disaster. A disaster that will also effect the fish, frogs and birds that are dependent upon a clean and healthy watershed.

It is reported that the EPA has not conducted a scientific assessment of the potential impacts of their proposal upon the environment. The government has chosen instead to redefine their legal interpretation of the Clean Water Act, insisting upon an interpretation that has already been rejected by the Supreme Court (Rapanos v. United States).

Instead of utilizing scientific information with regards to how water moves through and impacts the Arizona landscape, the administration is assuming that today’s more conservative Supreme Court will permit the gutting of the Clean Water Act.

Click to map real time Arizona stream flows with this interactive map!

Visit the Arizona Water Science Center Website!

the U.S. Geological Survey Arizona Water Science Center