Altar Valley conservation group withdraws objection to Sierrita Pipeline

buenos-airesA southern Arizona conservation group and Sierrita Gas Pipeline, LLC have signed an agreement regarding the pipeline project which is planned in the Altar Valley.

The Altar Valley Conservation Alliance has agreed to withdraw opposition to the pipeline, and Sierrita has agreed to provide the Alliance with significant financial resources, according to a statement released by the Alliance. the group says it will spend the money on valley-wide projects, including direct support of watershed-wide restoration of the Altar Wash floodplain and its tributary systems.

The Alliance had expressed opposition to the project, but now it feels that it would be better to get money from Sierrita then spend money on attorneys.

In their statement, the Alliance says that the settlement agreement “does not waive any of the Alliance’s rights to subsequently publicly challenge Sierrita with respect to any failure by Sierrita to abide by any of the applicable conditions and requirements set forth in permits and approvals for the Project; and the Alliance has executed the settlement agreement with the express understanding that its continued participation in discussions with permitting entities and other interested persons regarding measures to mitigate the impact of the Project will not be deemed to be a violation of the settlement agreement.”

In other words, it has left the door open to get more “mitigation” money.

The Alliance says they sincerely hope that the agreement “contributes to setting a positive tone for monitoring the pipeline and mitigating impacts during and following construction.”

Jonathan Duhamel in an article in the Arizona Daily Independent writes that the project “to bring natural gas to Mexico has stirred up some controversy about its routing.”

According to Duhamel, “the Altar Valley is desert grassland and home to several ranches, but the main problem is that it is also home to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).”

Duhamel notes that the logical route for the project “would be to continue the pipeline along the highway right of way,” but the feds are “fiercely protective of its Wildlife Refuge which is essentially a failed experiment to re-establish the Masked Bobwhite Quail in Arizona.” As a result, the fed’s preferred route will “establish yet another corridor for such illegal entry” and “would also require some condemnation of private land – eminent domain action to benefit a private company.”

“Another rancher points out that the favored route (red) will cross 206 ephemeral streams, which is expected to cause substantial erosion since the soils are highly erodible,” writes Duhamel. “If the pipeline were to follow the road through the Wildlife Refuge, it would cross 37 fewer intermittent and/or ephemeral washes than the chosen route. It would also cross through five fewer miles of existing designated “critical habitat” for the Mexican garter snake.”

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