Army lying about base’s effect on San Pedro, environmentalist alleges

A beaver dam on the San Pedro River Southeastern Arizona. The river flows north out of Sonora, Mexico. /PHOTO BY HOLLY RICHTER/NATURE CONSERVANCY

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services

Charging the federal government and Army are misstating the evidence, environmental group asked a federal judge Tuesday to order them to take another look at how the operation of Fort Huachuca is affecting the San Pedro River.

Attorney Stuart Gillespie said the military base is claiming that its reduction in water use, coupled with recharge efforts and buying former farmland shows there is no detrimental impact on the river, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the desert Southwest. It also is home to various endangered and threatened species.

Gillespie, representing the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Maricopa Audubon Society, told U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins that the Army is playing fast and loose with its claims. More to the point, he said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose blessing is needed for continued operations at current levels, has accepted the military’s findings.

At the very least, the environmental groups want the federal agency to go back and recompute whether the operation of Fort Huachuca, both on and off-base, is harming the river. Gillespie said Collins cannot allow the base to operate as it is under findings by Fish and Wildlife that are based on “illusory water credits.”

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