Thu 7 Jul 2011
Arizona Senator John McCain is pushing an amendment that would allow Fort Huachuca to pump up to 6,000 acre-feet/year of water from the Sierra Vista sub-basin of the San Pedro River free of any Endangered Species Act consultation requirements. An internal memo and copy of the rider dated June 16 of this year became available earlier today.
Instead of seeking exemption from our nation’s environmental laws, the fort and the surrounding communities need to work towards sustainable water use that does not threaten the San Pedro or the plants and wildlife that need a wet river.
The first story on the subject is hot off the press from EENews/Greenwire.
McCain rider would end-run legal fight over desert river (07/07/2011)
Paul Quinlan, E&E reporter
Arizona Republican John McCain is promoting a rider for a Senate defense spending bill that would allow an Arizona Army base to tap groundwater that environmentalists say is needed for the imperiled San Pedro River.
McCain’s amendment represents a legislative counterattack to the Center for Biological Diversity in a legal battle over Fort Huachuca’s water use, which the nonprofit group says is damaging the Southwest’s last undammed desert river.
“It kills the river,” said Dr. Robin Silver, of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The amendment would allow the base to pump up to 6,000 acre-feet of water per year and shield the installation from lawsuits that make it responsible for water use in neighboring communities, according to an email from a top Republican aide on the Senate Armed Services Committee, on which McCain is the ranking member.
McCain also argues that a 6,000-acre wildfire burning in the area has further stressed water supplies.
The aide’s email calls the fort a “leader in implementing water conservation measures” and says that “fringe environmental groups” are using the Endangered Species Act to “forcibly reduce the Fort’s groundwater pumping.”
Environmentalists recently prevailed in court, when a federal judge in May ruled that the Army and the Fish and Wildlife Service relied on a “legally flawed” plan to protect the San Pedro River. The plan failed to properly analyze the effect that groundwater pumping was having on imperiled species, such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and a plant called the Huachuca water umbel, the judge wrote.
The Army and the Fish and Wildlife Service must write a new plan to protect the river from the base’s pumping.
But McCain argues that because the Endangered Species Act applies differently to non-federal entities, “the center has made the Fort their whipping boy in courts.”
The amendment is one of McCain’s “highest priorities,” according to the aide’s email, which highlights Fort Huachuca’s role in training military interrogators and in military “black ops.”
“Senator McCain and I urge your support because the challenge to Fort Huachuca, and its contribution to the national security missions regarding testing of ‘unique’ (in many cases, black ops) electronic equipment and its training for Army interrogators, hangs in the balance,” the email said.