Water Co-op Votes To Oppose Interstate 11 In Avra Valley

[ADEQ photo]

With a unanimous vote at the Rancho Del Conejo Community Water Co-op’s Annual Membership Meeting on December 8, the 47-year-old utility’s members went on record opposing “any proposed Interstate 11 highway through the Avra Valley as it will cause irreparable damage to our communities and our water supply. Improving Interstate 10 is preferable and less expensive.”

Rancho del Conejo, founded by the late Mayme Smith in 1971, was the glue that brought together what is now the 10,000-person rural community of Picture Rocks.  The co-op serves 330 families directly with two groundwater wells.  With ADOT maps obtained through an Avra Valley Coalition Freedom of Information Act demand,co-op members found out that one of their wells was right in the path of the proposed highway.

The Avra Valley Coalition prepared an interactive map that can be viewed at: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1QWsZCzGBFqeXXdGeXSuv_rfdJSz4sFfv&ll=32.476248578826436%2C-111.33605643538931&z=17

The Arizona Dept. of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration’s $15 million Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study is expected to announce its “preferred alternative”route – the Avra Valley or the existing I-10 – within the next 30-60 days.  That will be followed by public meetings and a public comment period.  ADOT Study Manager Jay Van Echo has promised that, unlike previous public meetings,questions and comments from the floor will be allowed.  The last public meeting and comment period in Fall of 2017 generated over 3,000 responses, possibly a record, with 89%opposed to an Avra Valley route and only ½ of one percent in favor. 

The Rancho del Conejo Community Water Co-op joins a growing list of Avra Valley I-11 opponents,including:  Citizens for Picture Rocks; City of Tucson;Pima Natural Resource Conservation District; Garcia Strip Community of the Toak District; San Xavier  District; and Schuk District, Tohono O’odham Nation; National Park Service;  Friends of Saguaro National Park; Friends of Ironwood Forest; Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection; Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Tucson Audubon Society; Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation; I-11 Community Planning Group (several of the above plus Menlo Park Neighborhood Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Erickson Terrascape, Drachman Institute, and Statistical Research); Sierra Club; Friends of Tucson Mountain Park; Sky Island Alliance; Gates Pass Area Neighborhood Association;Congressman Raul Grijalva; L.D. 11 State Senator Steve Smith & State Senator-elect Vince Leach; L.D. 11 State Rep. Mark Finchem &Representative-elect Bret Roberts (Republicans) ; L.D. 11 Democrat State Rep.candidates Hollace Lyon & Ralph Atchue; Pima County Board of Supervisors –Resolution 2007-343 (partial list, and growing).

BUILDING A NEW INTERSTATE 11 – THE PROS AND CONS

PRO: Without a new multi-billion-dollar I-11 highway, by the year 2040 travel time between Tucson and Nogales will increase as much as two (2) minutes.  (Source: Presentation by Arizona Dept. of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration (ADOT/FHWA) I-11 Study Manager Jay Van Echo at Citizens for Picture Rocks meeting, 8/21/18).

CON: Improving I-10 instead of building a new highway through the Avra Valley would cost billions less taxpayer dollars. (Source: Arizona Dept. of Transportation State Engineer Jennifer Toth at State Transportation Board meeting in Tucson, December, 2008.)

PRO: “Near shoring:”  Building I-11 will attract American companies from China to Mexico where wages are now lower than in China.  (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17.)

CON: A new highway through the Avra Valley would bring air, noise and light pollution to tens of thousands of people. One eighth of Avra Valley residents are retirees, slightly less than 1/8 are military veterans, and 1/4 are under the age of 18. Four-fifths of the housing is owner-occupied. Dozens of families would be evicted. A new “Valley Fever Corridor,” a disease which now kills about 160 people a year, would be opened up.  (Sources: Common sense!  See also comments from the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District in Agency and Public Information Meetings,Appendix C;  Public comments about impacted families by the Pima County Administrator.  Valley Fever Corridor from UA News, 10/13/15).

PRO: “Integrative Manufacturing:” I-11 will facilitate research and development in Nevada and Arizona, with manufacture and assembly in Mexico.  (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17.)

CON: A new highway through the Avra Valley would result in vehicle emissions settling in Tucson Water’s Avra Valley CAP settling ponds, potentially threatening the aquifer.  Tucson would also lose jobs, businesses and tax revenue from the I-10 corridor.  (Source: City of Tucson comments in ADOT/FHWA Scoping Summary Report, Appendix D,1/25/17.)

PRO: I-11 will facilitate the shift of shipping and jobs from U.S. West Coast ports to the Mexican Port of Guaymas. (Source: ADOT/FHWA Purpose and Need Memorandum, 2/28/17.)

CON: Tourism would be negatively impacted at Saguaro National Park,Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Mountain Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Kitt Peak Observatory, Old Tucson. (Source: Pima Natural Resource Conservation District in Agency and Public Information Meetings, Appendix C.)

PRO: I-11 will enrich real estate speculators.  (Source: Avra Valley Coalition research based on Assessor records.)

CON: Wildlife would be threatened and existing linkages imperiled to the point where some species would face extinction. (Source: Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, in Appendix H, Agency and Public Information MeetingSummary Report, 11/30/17.)

PRO: I-11 will provide a taxpayer-funded free access highway to a planned private development:  What is now called the“Sonoran Corridor” (rejected in 2015 bond election) was originally shown on maps prepared by Pima County as part of I-11 to link I-19 and I-10.  Instead of a straight east-west route, it drops south to provide a free access highway for Diamond Ventures planned Swan Southlands development.  (Source: I-11 map proposed by Pima County Administrator –see over).

CON: With over 3000 public comments in 2017, 89 percent opposed I-11 or any Avra Valley I-11 route, with only ½ of one percent favoring it.  ADOT/FHWA convened two “Stakeholders Engagement Groups” in early 2018, by invitation only, to try to bring the two sides together.  The two groups merged as the  I-11 Joint Stakeholder Community Planning Group, calling for I-10 improvements and declaring thatA bypass through Avra Valley is not acceptable.” (8/3/18)

DON’T BE CONNED BY THE PROS:  The I-11 Study Team is expected to announce its choice between an Avra Valley route, improving the existing I-10 corridor, or the rarely-used No Build option, by the end of 2018, or beginning of 2019.                                                         (over)

Public meetings and comment periods will follow early in 2019 in Tucson and Marana.  The planners have committed, for the first time,  to allow open discussion and questions at the public meetings.  While construction maybe years away, choices made NOW will be set in stone.   

Pima County Board of Supervisors Resolution 2007-343 opposes “the construction of any new highways in or around the County that have the stated purpose of bypassing the existing Interstate 10 as it is believed that the environmental, historic,archaeological and urban form impacts could not be adequately mitigated.”

The original Avra Valley route proposed by Pima County Administrator Charles H. Huckelberry

ADOT’S CURRENT MAPS WERE FINALLY OBTAINED THROUGH A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT DEMAND. TO VIEW WITH INTERACTIVE GOOGLE MAPS AND SEE THE THREAT TO HOMES,WILDLIFE, AND WATER, VISIT:

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1QWsZCzGBFqeXXdGeXSuv_rfdJSz4sFfv&ll=32.22633849345767%2C-111.11044797853208&z=12

ON RECORD OPPOSING I-11 IN THE AVRA VALLEY:  Citizens for Picture Rocks; City of Tucson; Pima Natural Resource Conservation District; Garcia Strip Community of the Toak District; San Xavier District; and Schuk District, Tohono O’odham Nation; National Park Service;  Friends of Saguaro National Park; Friends of Ironwood Forest; Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection;Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Tucson Audubon Society; Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation; I-11 Community Planning Group (several of the above plus Menlo Park Neighborhood Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Erickson Terrascape, Drachman Institute, and Statistical Research); Sierra Club; Friends of Tucson Mountain Park; Sky Island Alliance; Gates Pass Area Neighborhood Association; Congressman Raul Grijalva; L.D. 11 State Senator Steve Smith &State Senator-elect Vince Leach, Rep. Mark Finchem& Representative-elect Bret Roberts (Republicans) ; LD-11 Democrat State Rep. candidates Hollace Lyon & Ralph Atchue; Pima County Board of Supervisors – Resolution 2007-343 (partial list, and growing).

Published by the Avra Valley Coalition, an informal, unaffiliated and non-partisan collection of individuals and groups opposed to I-11 in the Avra Valley. Please make copies and help spread the word!   To be added to our e-mail list, which is not shared, contact avravalleycoalition@gmail.com.  

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7 Comments

  1. How many billions of taxpayer dollars are the politicians planning to spend to avoid a PROJECTED increase of 2 minutes of driving time in 2040 (See first Con above.) between Tucson and Nogales?
    This insanity must be stopped!

    • Tongue-in-cheek. Except that, for the Pima County Power Structure, enriching certain speculators is a pro, and that’s for both major parties. i.e. Some 1500 vacant acres along Charles Huckelberry’s original proposed Avra Valley I-11 route is owned by Cardon Family businesses. Wil Cardon, who committed suicide last year, ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primaries for US Senate and Secretary of State. Prominent on his campaign committee were Don Diamond and Diamond Ventures president Eliot Goldstein. Don Diamond is a major contributor and fundraiser for political candidates, including Democrat Sharon Bronson. Diamond stands to get a free, taxpayer-paid access highway ( the “Sonoran Corridor”)for his planned 3200 acre Swan Southlands development. Bronson gets to tell constituents she is against I-11 in the Avra Valley, citing BOS Resolution 2007-343, but does nothing to get the BOS to reaffirm their position or to call to account their grossly insubordinate employee. Can you spell C-R-O-N-Y?

  2. Everyone else in Pima County could, and probably has, oppose I-11. The only two that matter are in favor, Chuck Huckleberry and Don Diamond.

  3. Don’t understand do you. A decision was made a couple of years ago and all the meetings, etc. are just window dressing. The cronies have won and I 11 will be built. Money talks and BS walks. Sorry.

    • Agreed, it’s a done deal and we’ve known this for a while now. All we can do is try to get the least impacting route affecting the least amount of people and animals.

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