Pima County rips Hudbay’s backdoor plan to gut Outstanding Arizona Water protections for Davidson Canyon

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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.

“We will vigorously oppose any attempt to remove Davidson Canyon from the present list of OAW in order to facilitate reduced water quality standards,” Huckelberry concluded.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors will consider at its July 11 meeting whether to adopt a resolution opposing any attempt by the ADEQ to remove OAW designations from the 22 waterways.

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a Tucson-based citizens group opposed to the Rosemont mine, said Hudbay’s effort to strip OAW protections from any Arizona waterway currently protected should be rejected.

“The notion of dispensing with Outstanding Water designations so that hard rock mining, with all its negative impacts, can be made easier is outrageous,” SSSR President Gayle Hartmann states in a July 5 letter to ADEQ.

The ADEQ director, through a specific rule, designates which waterways are listed as Outstanding Arizona Waters. Perennial and intermittent waterways can be classified as an OAW, according to state regulations. (See R18-11-112. Outstanding Arizona Waters)

Hudbay, in a Jan. 10 letter to the ADEQ, requested that the “department undertake a review of both the rulemaking and listing process, as well as the historical water quality data underlying those rulemakings, that resulted in the listing of each of the Arizona Surface Waters classified as Outstanding Arizona Waters over the years.”

The letter, sent by Hudbay’s environmental director Kathy Arnold, also requested the department to “include in its review an evaluation of stormwater runoff contributions to intermittent and perennial waters.”

The department immediately responded to Hudbay’s request with a Jan. 11 letter to Arnold stating “we appreciate your interest” and that it would include Hudbay’s request to review the rulemaking and listing process in its triennial review of Arizona surface water quality standards that is underway.

The department’s letter also suggests that the ADEQ is looking at revising the OAW designations based on the amount of water contributed by runoff from storms. Spring fed Davidson Canyon receives much of its water from storm runoff.

“We are interested in providing clarity to areas of the OAW listing process that are ambiguous, including the evaluation of stormwater runoff contributions to intermittent and perennial waters,” Trevor Baggiore, director of ADEQ’s Water Quality Division, stated in the letter.

The Army Corps informed Hudbay last Dec. 28 that its Section 404 Clean Water Act permits was in jeopardy. In a detailed letter, the Corps stated that its district office recommended denial of the 404 permit in July 2016 because the construction of the mine would “cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards” and the project would contribute to “degradation of Outstanding Arizona Waters.”

The district office also stated that the Rosemont mine “would be contrary to the public interest” because of “adverse effects to cultural resources and traditional cultural properties important to tribes.”

The Army Corps regional office is reviewing Hudbay’s 404 permit application and has not given any indication of when a decision will be made.

The ADEQ, meanwhile, has determined that the Rosemont mine would not violate state water quality standards and issued Hudbay a state certification required under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Pima County is challenging the state’s 401 certification in a lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Huckelberry stated in a May 5 letter to the Army Corps and the Region IX office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the federal government should not issue a 404 permit that is based on a “legally and technically flawed” 401 certification issued by the state.

“Pima County asserts ADEQ violated Arizona law because the conditions included in the Section 401 Water Quality Certification are derived from information (Rosemont’s Surface Water Mitigation Plan) submitted to ADEQ after the close of the public comment period,”  Huckelberry’s May 5 letter stated.

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7 Responses to Pima County rips Hudbay’s backdoor plan to gut Outstanding Arizona Water protections for Davidson Canyon

  1. ALAN JOHNSON says:

    IT HAS BECOME A ” POLITICAL POKER GAME ” WITH GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HOLDING ALL OF THE CARDS . ” HUDBAY ” CAN SIMPLY SIT BACK AND FEED MONEY INTO THE ” POT “. WHATEVER THE OUTCOME , IT IS THE PEOPLE WHO WILL SUFFER .

    I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO THANK THE TEAM AT ” ROSEMONT MINE TRUTH ” FOR GIVING ME AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS MY VIEWS AND OPINIONS REGARDING THE ” ROSEMONT SAGA “. IT HAS BEEN VERY DISCOURAGING TO SEE HOW FEW PEOPLE RESPOND TO THE NEWS RELEASES PUT OUT BY ” ROSEMONT MINE TRUTHS “. I HAD HOPED TO TRY AND STIMULATE INTEREST BUT OBVIOUSLY HAVE FAILED IN THIS REGARD . I WILL CONTINUE TO FOLLOW ANY AND ALL DEVELOPMENTS FROM A DISTANCE . I AM NOT MENTALLY EQUIPPED TO PLAY ” POLITICAL POKER ” .

    • Fergus Graham says:

      Over a time span of years, Alan Johnson has been a diligent follower of the news concerning Rosemont and has been an insightful and motivated commentator on the whole political and technical permitting “saga”. I hope his comments have been appreciated by all interested parties.

  2. steven says:

    Maybe you should post on Facebook directly. just a thought

  3. Hello,
    I worked for the Corps of Engineers at the Tucson Resident Office at D-M. I will tell you that you still have some support and more important some intelligent ears there. Give the ladies with the Corps as much information about the site as you can. Tucson and southern AZ surely does not need another copper hole in the ground. My father worked for anaconda and the conditions for workers at the mines are terrible at any wage. I can do an independent review of what was submitted to the Corps, not too many companies can start projects with Clean Water Act violations and Endangered Species Present.

  4. Thomas Stewart says:

    Good Golly What The OAW Needs Is “George Soros” To Get Involved?? Maybe A Slam-Dunk?? This Is A Libtard Political Idea Money Talks And Tax Payers Pay For This Blockade, Of Course The Tax Payers Just Get The Biggest BS Story Never The “Real Truth”?? God Bless America With The Best President In US History!! Donald J. Trump.

  5. Lyle Anderson says:

    Alan Johnson, we’re with you!

  6. Robert Harris says:

    Year after year we see the Arizona Department of environmental quality twisting the rules and regulations to advantage of foreign corporations. The site proposed for the project is under every type of protection available went through manipulation of regulations the nightmare continues. The site is listed as an synthetic minor, based on the supposition that Rosemont will reduce their emissions voluntarily. This should have been a major new source of pollution and regulated as such.

    Pima County Department of environmental quality, years ago, turn down the application for permits from Augusta resource. 15 minutes before ADEQ granted the air-quality permit Pima County thought they were still in control. Unbeknownst to them, Arizona DEQ was secretly working on a second permit application. That permit application was granted by ADEQ when they had never visited the proposed site.