Proposed gas pipeline divides southern Arizona valley

Residents say the Altar Valley Watershed is a unique area that ought to be used wisely and protected. / Tony Paniagua
Residents say the Altar Valley Watershed is a unique area that ought to be used wisely and protected. / Tony Paniagua

By Bob Ortega, The Republic | azcentral.com

SASABE, Ariz. – The charms of the Altar Valley may not be obvious to out­siders. Devil’s claw, saguaros and spiny cholla dot the desert grasslands and rugged arroyos

of this harsh, fragile landscape. The isolated ­ranches that break its seeming sparseness are few and very far between.

It takes time and stillness to notice what else is here: the furtive foxes and coyotes, the reclusive bobcats, the shy roadrunners and jackrabbits.

Soon, the sense of remoteness and emptiness that attracted those who live here may bring a change that many fear will alter it forever: a proposed $204 million natural-gas pipeline that would carve a swath 60 miles long and 75 to 100 feet wide from Tucson to the Mexican border, near the town of Sasabe.

“That pinche pipeline is going to go right through Sasabe, right through my ranch, destroy all the conservation work we’ve done and provide a superhighway for drug and people smugglers,” Melissa Owen said from the porch of her ranch house at the foot of the Pozo Verde Mountains. (“Pinche,” in Mexican Spanish, roughly translates to “damned.”)

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