Crucial permit suspended again for huge Benson development project

The proposed location of the 28,000-home Villages at Vigneto is along Arizona 90, south of Interstate 10. The development will cover about 12,400 acres, with lakes and a 40-acre park. / By Ron Medvescek / Arizona Daily Star

 

For the second time in three years, a critical permit for the controversial Villages at Vigneto development in Benson has been suspended.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week suspended the 28,000-home project’s Clean Water Act permit. The move comes less than two weeks after environmentalists filed a lawsuit alleging the Army Corps’ November decision to approve the permit violated the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The lawsuit alleged Phoenix-based developer El Dorado Holdings used a dubious argument to persuade the Army Corps to dramatically limit its scope of analysis when evaluating Vigneto’s potential environmental impacts. The agency’s narrow analysis avoided any exploration of potential effects of the project’s groundwater pumping for 70,000 anticipated new residents, said Stu Gillespie, attorney for Earthjustice, the environmental law firm representing the six plaintiffs in the Vigneto lawsuit. The plaintiffs are the Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Audubon Society, Maricopa Audubon Society and Cascabel Conservation Association.

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