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Development on the opposite end of Arizona could result in big problems for the entire state

For those who have made the drive to Las Vegas, there is, in the near future, good news and bad news. The good news is that the Hoover Dam bypass, an ambitious road project that will eliminate mind-numbing delays through the dam area, is scheduled to be completed in 2008.

The bad news (and it's real bad) is that the bottleneck that used to be at the dam will soon be 30 miles or so southeast of that area, in Arizona's Mohave County, and it'll be one that should make most Arizonans look back longingly at that nostalgic race through the desert that was culminated by a motorized crawl over one of the modern wonders of the world.

See, if some developers get their way--and, here in Arizona, developers always get their way--Mohave County, tucked away in the far northwestern corner of our state, will become a suburb of Las Vegas with more than 160,000 new houses and maybe a half-million people in less than a decade.

By some estimates, Mohave County will go from having 14 people per square mile to having gigantic suburban areas with more than 4,000 houses per square mile.

And here's the extra fun part: No one has any idea if there is enough water. In fact, so little studying of the area has been done that we don't even know if there is enough water for the people who live there now. And the kicker is that the state Legislature, that bastion of ineptitude, mutual back-scratching and cell-phone apologia, doesn't even require that such studies be done before the latest chapter of desert rape begins.

Like Tucson, Mohave County depends on groundwater. No one is sure how much is there, but wells generally have to be dug deeply, and several have dried up in recent years. Unlike Tucson, Mohave County has no claim on Colorado River water, even though the river forms its entire western border.

State law requires that developers in the Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott areas demonstrate there is an assured 100-year supply of water for any development that is built. However, there is absolutely no such requirement in the rest of the state. Not along that stretch of Highway 90 between Interstate 10 and Sierra Vista where 100,000 people may soon be living (and driving into Tucson to work). Not in the booming area south of Yuma. And not in Mohave County, which is on the drawing board to become Las Vegas' land bitch.

The housing crunch in Las Vegas has been a source of great concern for quite some time. So, along come these two Las Vegas developers, Jim Rhodes and Leonard Mardian, who cook up this scheme to dump Nevada's overflow into Arizona. The developments have disgusting names like Retreat at Temple Bar, Villages at White Hills, and Peacock Vistas. They should all be named Overpriced Gridlock at Formerly Pristine Desert.

And gridlock it shall be, for as it stands now, that final 15-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 93 (the road from Kingman to the Nevada state line) is only one lane in each direction. The Arizona Department of Transportation had planned to begin widening that part of the road around the time the dam bypass was completed, but even then, doubling the capacity would barely keep up with the demand of current traffic volume. Add 100,000 cars per day to that road, and you have complete disaster.

Further complicating things is the fact that ADOT, faced with more pressing needs in the here and now, diverted funds away from Mohave County, meaning that only a short stretch of that project will be undertaken in the next five years.

In the relative blink of an eye, this will be the third-largest metropolitan area in Arizona. It will have no economic infrastructure of its own and will be beholden to an adult fantasy playground in another state. So what happens if a half-million people run out of water in 20 years? Do we give them ours? How about electricity? Will we willingly endure rolling summer brownouts so that the cheap labor force of Las Vegas can commute?

The Legislature can do something about this, either through direct action or by at least untying the hands of Mohave County officials and letting them have a say in their own future. One such bill (HB 2462) was introduced but was never even assigned to a committee. In fact, here's how your Legislature works: The strongest bill on this subject to even get out of committee would have made all sellers clearly inform the potential buyers about the (in)adequacy of the water supply. A last-minute amendment shifted that responsibility to the buyer.

At press time, the Arizona Corporation Commission was considering looking into the matter, but don't expect a miracle. Under current law, all the developers would have to do is inform buyers (in really small type) that the state hasn't determined whether there's enough water or not.

Arizona's identity has already been beaten and bloodied by the visionless whores in the Phoenix area. Its very soul is on the line here. The NIMBYs must become the NIOSes (Not In Our State). It's not too late, but it will be very soon.

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