WASHINGTON – Arizona projects got $110 million last year and will get another $159 million in the fiscal year that started this month, or more than 9% of all funding nationally under the Great American Outdoors Act for those two years.
The money, dedicated largely to national parks but also to federal lands and tribal schools, has been welcomed by tourism and environmental groups, who said it is long overdue.
“The National Park Service has been underfunded over the years,” said Kevin Dahl, senior program manager for Arizona in the National Parks Conservation Association’s Southwest region.
“These are our jewels, and with visitation and with normal wear and tear, there’s a lot of buildings, a lot of roads, trails, etc. and those all need regular maintenance,” he said. “When you don’t maintain them over time, the backlog of maintenance becomes pretty high.”
For national parks, the backlog of deferred maintenance totaled $11.9 billion in 2018, according to data from the National Park Service. More than $507.4 million of that was for projects in Arizona, with $313.8 million needed in the Grand Canyon National Park alone.
Joe Galli, senior adviser in public policy at the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, said the funding is critical to not just the park, but the region.
“It’s very good for improving facilities and maintenance, and enhancing the visitors’ experience, those things are critical to the lifeblood of visitation in Arizona which is a critical component of our economy,” he said.
Visitors to Saguaro National Park West will see scenic roads closed from Oct. 4-30 for construction.
Access to Bajada Loop Drive from the Hugh Norris Trail Head to Golden Gate Road will be closed from Oct. 4-15.
After those improvements, the Bajada Loop and its amenities, such as the Sus Picnic Area, Hugh Norris Trailhead, Valley View Overlook Trail, Bajada Wash Trail and all of Golden Gate Road (Signal Hill, Ez-Kim-In-Zin, Sendero Esperanza) will be closed from Oct. 16-30.
“This will help ensure the safety of the crew working on the one-lane road, as well as any visitor who may not be aware of the closure notice,” Saguaro’s Facility Manager Richard Goepfrich said.
All traffic to these locations will be prohibited, including pedestrians and cyclists. Park officials said heavy machinery in these areas will be dangerous for all traffic. Large construction vehicles will need to use the entire one-lane road for easy transportation.
Visit nps.gov/sagu/planyourvisit/conditions for updates on construction.
El Tour de Tucson will hold the fifth Pima County El Tour Loop de Loop on Saturday, Sept. 25, and will conclude with an after-party.
The activity, which helps promote the more than 20 nonprofit partners involved in the El Tour event, is the official kickoff for the Banner – University Medicine 38th El Tour de Tucson on Nov. 20.
The Loop de Loop is for 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. and will be held on The Chuck Huckelberry Loop. The after-party will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Mercado Annex on The Loop, 267 Avendida del Convento, with live music, prize drawings and more.
The band Badlands will play from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Raffle tickets will be provided at the event.
The grand raffle prize for this year’s Loop de Loop is a LeMond Prolog carbon fiber ebike, designed by Greg LeMond and retails for $4,500.
It is a free, easy, casual and fun ride open to individuals of all ages and abilities.
WASHINGTON – Federal regulators on Friday rejected a mining company’s request to reduce critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the Santa Rita Mountains on land that overlaps the footprint of the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine.
The decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the latest setback for Hudbay Minerals Inc., which has been working for more than a decade to get permission to open the mine that it says could create thousands of jobs and bring billions in economic development to the region.
But opponents welcomed the decision, saying the mine threatens not just the jaguar but the area’s drinking water supply.
“The people of Tucson have shown very clearly that they value jaguars and their water security more than they value this foreign company coming in here to put an open-pit copper mine in our mountains,” said Randy Serraglio, the Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
In an emailed statement Friday, a Hudbay representative said the Canadian-based mining company is reviewing the Fish and Wildlife decision, but that it “remains committed to the development of the Rosemont Project.”
Hudbay claims that the mine would lead to the creation of 500 jobs directly related to the project and another 2,700 indirectly related, spinning off $48 million a year in state and local taxes and generating $1.4 billion a year in economic activity for the region.
The company also claims on its website that the proposed Rosemont mine has been the subject of more than 1,000 studies by 17 federal, state and local agencies over 11 years, and insists it will operate an “unprecedented environmental mitigation program” at the site.
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.
This story was originally published by ProPublica and the New York Times.
On a 110-degree day several years ago, surrounded by piles of sand and rock in the desert outside of Las Vegas, I stepped into a yellow cage large enough to fit three standing adults and was lowered 600 feet through a black hole into the ground. There, at the bottom, amid pooling water and dripping rock, was an enormous machine driving a cone-shaped drill bit into the earth. The machine was carving a cavernous, 3-mile tunnel beneath the bottom of the nation’s largest freshwater reservoir, Lake Mead.
Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the Colorado River, supplying fresh water to Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. The reservoir hasn’t been full since 1983. In 2000, it began a steady decline caused by epochal drought. On my visit in 2015, the lake was just about 40% full. A chalky ring on the surrounding cliffs marked where the waterline once reached, like the residue on an empty bathtub. The tunnel far below represented Nevada’s latest salvo in a simmering water war: the construction of a $1.4 billion drainage hole to ensure that if the lake ever ran dry, Las Vegas could get the very last drop.
For years, experts in the American West have predicted that, unless the steady overuse of water was brought under control, the Colorado River would no longer be able to support all of the 40 million people who depend on it. Over the past two decades, Western states took incremental steps to save water, signed agreements to share what was left and then, like Las Vegas, did what they could to protect themselves. But they believed the tipping point was still a long way off.
Like the record-breaking heat waves and the ceaseless mega-fires, the decline of the Colorado River has been faster than expected. This year, even though rainfall and snowpack high up in the Rocky Mountains were at near-normal levels, the parched soils and plants stricken by intense heat absorbed much of the water, and inflows to Lake Powell were around one-fourth of their usual amount. The Colorado’s flow has already declined by nearly 20%, on average, from its flow throughout the 1900s, and if the current rate of warming continues, the loss could well be 50% by the end of this century.
Earlier this month, federal officials declared an emergency water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time. The shortage declaration forces reductions in water deliveries to specific states, beginning with the abrupt cutoff of nearly one-fifth of Arizona’s supply from the river, and modest cuts for Nevada and Mexico, with more negotiations and cuts to follow. But it also sounded an alarm: one of the country’s most important sources of fresh water is in peril, another victim of the accelerating climate crisis.
Americans are about to face all sorts of difficult choices about how and where to live as the climate continues to heat up. States will be forced to choose which coastlines to abandon as sea levels rise, which wildfire-prone suburbs to retreat from and which small towns cannot afford new infrastructure to protect against floods or heat. What to do in the parts of the country that are losing their essential supply of water may turn out to be the first among those choices.