For Immediate Release, June 10, 2014

Contact: Dr. Robin Silver, (602)799-3275

Judge Rejects Plan to Siphon Water From Arizona's San Pedro River for Sprawl Development

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz.— A Maricopa County judge has rejected a controversial plan for a massive groundwater pumping project that would drain water away from Arizona’s San Pedro River to feed sprawl development in the town of Sierra Vista.

The ruling said the conservation value of the Upper San Pedro River — including for birds, fish and other wildlife — wasn’t properly considered in April 2013 when the Arizona Department of Water Resources approved the plan to pump water away for the Tribute development, which would include nearly 7,000 new homes and commercial lots.

“This is a huge victory, not just for the San Pedro but for waters around the state that provide life-giving habitat for wildlife,” said Robin Silver, a cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sprawling projects like the one in Sierra Vista exact a massive toll on Arizona’s natural resources. The San Pedro is a lifeblood of southern Arizona and it deserves better than to be drained for profits.”

The Center, along with Sierra Vista resident Tricia Gerrodette and the Bureau of Land Management, sued over the Department of Water Resources’ decision because it ignored the impact on wildlife, local residents and businesses dependent on a healthy San Pedro River. Despite volumes of scientific studies showing that the San Pedro and the groundwater aquifer are interconnected, the state decided that it could be pumped away.

“We’re happy to see the judge recognized the connection between surface water and ground water,” Silver said. “That’s a significant realization, and it makes sense. You can’t suck away water in the aquifer and not expect a downstream river to be anything but damaged. This groundwater pumping project would have killed the San Pedro.”

The Upper San Pedro is the last undammed and free-flowing river in the desert Southwest. It’s a biological treasure providing important habitat for a wide array of species and a refuge from the impacts of development and climate change. The San Pedro is also one of the most important migratory flyways in the United States; millions of songbirds use it each year during their migrations between Central America and Canada.

The river is home to the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, a reserve managed by the Bureau of Land Management to protect and enhance this national treasure. The area attracts thousands of visitors, who contribute millions of dollars to the local economy, each year.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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