TUCSON, Arizona– Conservation groups have appealed a federal court ruling challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s granting of groundwater credits to the U.S. Army’s Fort Huachuca that does not return water to the San Pedro River in peril.
In last week’s filing with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Maricopa Audubon Society and the Sierra Club said the lower court’s March ruling wrongly attributed the base of the credit for ending groundwater pumping in an area where it had been terminated. a decade earlier. The court approved the mitigation credits based on its belief that groundwater pumping was “likely” to restart in this area, even though previous court rulings require it to be “certain to occur”.
“It’s like giving a bleeding patient an IOU for future blood transfusions,” said Robin Silver, an emergency physician who was also a co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Fisheries and wildlife officials are failing to protect the San Pedro River from Fort Huachuca’s insatiable water consumption. If the pumping of groundwater out of the fort’s post is not controlled by downsizing, the San Pedro River and the plants and animals that depend on it are doomed.
The San Pedro River and its endangered species are in trouble due to excessive and uncontrolled groundwater pumping in the Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista areas.
The pumping of groundwater out of Fort Huachuca station is the largest contributor to the disappearance of the San Pedro River. In 2013, Fort Huachuca was facing inevitable downsizing due to its inability to mitigate its excessive and unsustainable groundwater pumping. Fort Huachuca intelligence agents carried out a scheme to convince fish and wildlife officials to issue fake water credits.
The call from conservation groups says fish and wildlife officials violated their own water credit policy, as well as a directive to the fort that “[t]In order to adequately address the groundwater deficit in the Upper San Pedro Basin and ensure the health of the San Pedro River and the species that depend on it, some current water uses must cease.
Agency officials also went against their own biological view that conservation easements do not increase water flows in adjacent streams “unless active use of the water is withdrawn”.
“It is outrageous that fish and wildlife officials have been manipulated into giving Fort Huachuca water credits that do not add water to the river,” Maricopa Conservation Chairman said. Audubon, Charles Babbitt. “The San Pedro River is the last free-flowing desert river in the southwest. It is an international treasure and a mecca for birdwatching. He deserves better.
The district court ruled that Fort Huachuca ignored a hydrological study on the effects of groundwater pumping attributable to Fort on local groundwater levels, which have declined more than 60 feet in some areas. This study’s finding is consistent with a fish and wildlife biologist’s conclusion that “groundwater pumping at Fort Huachuca alone…endangers” the San Pedro River. This same biologist said Fort Huachuca intelligence officers believed that fish and wildlife officials “would turn around and go along with whatever the Fort came up with.”
Based on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study, the military has known for more than 50 years that Fort Huachuca’s large manpower is unsustainable due to groundwater depletion and river damage. San Pedro.
As the last free-flowing desert river in the Southwest, the San Pedro River is home to endangered species that depend on it for survival, including Southwestern Willow Flycatchers, Huachuca Water Pennyfish, desert pupfish, loach minnows, spikedaceous, yellow-billed cuckoos, Arizona ryngos, and garter snakes from northern Mexico.
Earthjustice is representing the Center, Maricopa Audubon and Sierra Club in this lawsuit.