Pima County is sharply criticizing Hudbay Minerals for lobbying state environmental officials to review the standards used to designate Outstanding Arizona Waters (OAW) protections for 22 Arizona creeks and streams, including two waterways comprising the Cienega Creek watershed that could be negatively impacted by its proposed Rosemont copper mine.
The OAW designation is crucial because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told Hudbay that its application for a Clean Water Act permit needed to build the $1.9 billion mine is in jeopardy because of the mine’s negative impacts on Davidson Canyon, which is classified as an Outstanding Arizona Water.
State waterways that are listed as an OAW are provided the highest levels of protection under the Clean Water Act. Davidson Canyon drains into Cienega Creek, which is also protected as an OAW. Davidson Canyon was designated an OAW in December 2008 after the Pima Association of Governments passed a resolution supporting the protection.
Former Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Steve Owens hailed the listing of Davidson Canyon along with Fossil Creek as Outstanding Arizona Waters.
“These standards are long overdue and are absolutely essential to protect Arizona’s precious water resources,” said Director Owens. “The people of this state deserve clean water in our rivers, lakes and streams.”
But nine years later, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry believes Hudbay is laying the groundwork for the ADEQ to remove Davidson Canyon from the OAW list.
“This thinly disguised attempt by Hudbay to reverse the longstanding designation of Davidson Canyon as an OAW should be summarily rejected as a self-serving gesture to facilitate pollution of Arizona’s surface waters,” Huckelberry wrote in a June 29 letter to the ADEQ. Continue reading