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Proposed Benson Development Could Affect San Pedro River, Local Aquifer

Proposed Benson Development Could Affect San Pedro River, Local Aquifer

A development proposed for an area near Benson, AZ faces two major hurdles before gaining approval — if it ever does. A similar development was in the works just before the real estate market crash in the mid-2000s. What’s more, there’s a growing controversy surrounding the risk that the development could dry up parts of the San Pedro River.

El Dorado Holdings, Inc., which is based in Phoenix, has proposed a “mixed development” along Arizona’s Route 90. According to the Arizona Daily Star, the development would be 12,324 acres and be comprised of 28,000 homes. Though Benson officials seem to be in favor of the development — because it has the potential to bring jobs and revenue to the area — the development is opposed by some environmentalists.

The concern is that pumping water for so many homes will dry up parts of the San Pedro River, which is a federally protected area. The pumping could also tap into and affect the nearby St. David Cienega, which is the only remaining aquifer in the area.

Though city officials insist that the pumps will go too deep to have an effect on the river and aquifer, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Bruce Gungle and University of Arizona researcher Thomas Maddock say that will actually only slow the effect, not prevent it altogether.

Voting sessions regarding the development will take place later this month.

Water woes are already affecting nearby City of Bisbee, but for a different reason.

The Sierra Vista Herald reported last month that the city’s residents have reached more than a collective $1 million in water debt. The city will soon begin collections on delinquent water bills. Two hundred and six residents owe a total of $1,146,524.13.

The city is working to collect the unpaid funds by making a claim with the state to recover it from residents’ income tax returns.

“We’ve had a really good response when we did the Arizona Debt Offset,” said city of Bisbee finance director Sharon Buono. “That’s when we submit up to the state, I can flag your state income tax and I have on all of these. So if they get a refund back we have a claim against it.”

Though there are various factors that can affect the integrity of a sewer system and how long it will last, experts agree that sewer systems over 40 years old are probably in need of replacement. The funds collected by the water and sewer departments go toward repairing sewer lines in the city and help offset the cost of both water and sewer services so that the prices don’t increase.

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