The Range

Up Shit Creek

The mighty Colorado River is the most endangered river in the country, according to the environmental advocacy group American Rivers. The group says the waterway has hit a trifecta of contamination by radioactive, toxic and human waste. Of particular concern is the Atlas Mill site near Moab, Utah, where, the folks at American Rivers inform us, "an estimated 110,000 gallons of radioactive groundwater seep into the river each day from a crude, unlined riverbank impoundment where 12 million gallons of radioactive waste are stored."

"As long as this material remains on the riverbank, it poisons the river every day and threatens water supplies with a catastrophic failure," says worrywart Bill Hedden of the Grand Canyon Trust.

But, you ask, who cares about radioactivity? Well, that's not all we have to worry about. Over in Henderson, Nev., we've got the toxic chemical ammonium perchlorate dripping into the river from a former military facility, according to the Environmental Working Group. Tests by the group show that the chemical can now be found in lettuce irrigated by the Colorado at four times the safe dose for a glass of water, which has allowed the Bush Administration to classify ammonium perchlorate as a vegetable.

Finally, the group says that the river is being contaminated by overloaded septic systems, particularly in the Lake Havasu area, where homebuilders don't have to worry about any of those goddamn guv'mint regulations. And if we don't like it, we can just eat shit--literally, since the water comes our way from the CAP canal and gets recharged into our aquifer. Say, any chance we can go back to the idea of using the CAP on farmland and mines?

Road Rage

After roughly 30 seconds of deliberation, the Tucson City Council voted unanimously Monday to soon eliminate Grant Road's suicide lane, which turned the center lane between Stone Avenue and Swan Road into a death-defying thrill ride for those brave enough to enter it between the weekday hours of 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. The decision was cheered by residents and business owners who attended the meeting.

"There were so many reasons to get rid of it," said Britton Dornquast, president of the Campbell Avenue Business Partnership and owner of Hear's Music, 2508 N. Campbell Ave. "It was a pain in the ass for everyone involved."

City transportation officials predict the decision will increase congestion along Grant Road, especially with longer waits at traffic lights to accommodate drivers making left turns. Boy, now the voters will be sorry they rejected that light-rail system last November! Council members vowed to deal with the increased traffic by developing a better transportation plan by 2099.

In related transportation news, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill transforming the Pima Association of Governments into a beefed-up regional transportation authority with the power to ask voters once again to approve a half-cent sales tax for road and transit improvements.

"I'm totally stoked," said John Dougherty of the Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, who helped steer the bill past the legislative loon squad. "The idea behind this bill is more important than what it accomplishes. This shows that Pima County and the city of Tucson can work together to solve problems on a regional level."

Well, maybe. Even Dougherty says getting the bill passed was the easy part; putting together a plan that voters will support promises to be a rougher road.

"The real work is going to be the dogfight over the money," says Dougherty.

Cat Lovers

An update in The Range's continuing mountain-lion coverage: Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense League of Arizona, released a poll showing that three-fourths of 800 randomly selected likely voters want to see cougars protected, and 84 percent said the Arizona Game and Fish Department should have reliable population counts before making decisions to hunt the lions.

"It is also clear that the public understands that mountain lions pose a limited risk to human beings and that they are an important part of our wild landscape," said Sandy Bahr, conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "Even in light of the fear-mongering associated with the Sabino Canyon mountain lions, most people agreed that these animals belong here and that the threats are minimal."

Early Warning

Early voting is underway for the May 18 Pima County bond election. Voters will decide the fate of more than $730 million in six different areas, including $174 million for buying open space, $81 million for health-care facilities, $183 million for cops and courts, $46 million for flood control, $150 million for sewer facilities and $96 million for parks. Chris Roads of the Pima County Recorder's Office says that 10,538 ballots had been requested as of Monday, April 19. To request an early ballot, call 740-4330 or visit
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