Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.

Freshman Congressman’s hidden agenda: defense contractors would win as San Pedro River dies

NEWS RELEASE: for immediate release Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Contact: Daniel R. Patterson, Desert Ecologist 520.623.5252 x 306
Dr. Robin Silver, Conservation Chairman 602.246.4170
More Information: AZ Republic Editorial 9/2/03, Rally Action Alert, San Pedro River Campaign Web, Letter to Rep. Renzi

WASHINGTON DC -- In a letter sent yesterday to Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ), the Center for Biological Diversity details Renzi’s lack of candor in promoting a legislative rider that threatens the San Pedro River and would chiefly benefit his father’s company, ManTech International, and other Department of Defense (DoD) contractors and developers around Sierra Vista, Arizona.

The San Pedro River is the last naturally functioning desert river ecosystem in the southwestern United States. In 1988, it was designated by Congress as a Riparian National Conservation Area. With 84 species of mammals, 14 fish species, 41 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 400 species of birds. Life Magazine recognized the San Pedro as one of “America’s Last Great Places” in 1993. It is a global environmental jewel.

Unfortunately, the San Pedro River is threatened by excessive deficit groundwater pumping. But current federal law ensures survival of the San Pedro River by requiring mitigation for the negative environmental consequences to river dependent endangered species resulting from a federal agency’s activities, as well as those that would not take place without federal support -- for example, federal defense spending at Ft. Huachuca and in the Sierra Vista area which is responsible for a majority of the urban sprawl and water use that threaten to dry up the river. The Army has accepted responsibility for 54% of the groundwater deficit in the Sierra Vista subwatershed, and agreed that 35,000 people would not live in the area absent DoD spending. Current law also requires consideration of the environmental water-use baseline in any evaluation of the potential effects of an agency action. But Rep. Renzi wants to eliminate DoD’s responsibility in these areas.

The Renzi Rider on the House version of the FYO4 Defense Authorization Bill and an Army revision of it seek to exempt DoD from such fundamental legal requirements. The Renzi Rider’s proposed exemption will enable the already excessive groundwater pumping around Sierra Vista to increase without legal limitation. Environmental groups across the nation are calling on Sen. McCain (R-AZ) to strip the riders in conference.

The benefactors from a successful Renzi rider are obvious. Big defense contractors with operations near Ft. Huachuca, as well as local developers will benefit the most. Rep. Renzi’s father, Major General Eugene C. Renzi, U.S. Army (Ret.), is President of ManTech Telecommunications and Information Systems Corporation. ManTech is a major Fort Huachuca contractor, and would benefit from the rider.

The Arizona Daily Star reported August 20, “…the Army's Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista could accommodate up to 10,000 more military personnel, though the numbers are tentative at this point, task force officials [Gov. Janet Napolitano's military facilities task force] said… though in Fort Huachuca's case growth would depend on finding new water sources, he [Thomas Finnegan, head of Sierra Vista’s Fort Huachuca 50] added.”

The “new water sources” are, of course, elimination of water mitigations via the Renzi Rider. The Renzi rider would secure such “new” water sources for Fort Huachuca by removing the public-interest mandates currently checking unlimited aquifer depletion. The current mandate for DoD mitigation of groundwater pumping that supports new, and old, off-post military contractors, support personnel and their families would be removed -- even though none of these activities would occur without federal defense dollars. The result would be the death of the San Pedro River, it’s diverse wildlife, and growing river-related tourism.

For a copy of the letter to Rep. Renzi, contact Daniel R. Patterson.

AZ Republic rider editorial.


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