It was a small turnout with a lot of passion at the Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC) meeting on Saturday, May 11.
PARC is a local nonprofit that was formed to fight the Pecos Road Alignment of the South Mountain Freeway. Now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Pecos Road Alignment has been released, the group is working to find any and all mistakes or defects in the report. Any insufficiencies must be pointed out during the 90-day comment period for the group to use those comments during possible litigation. According to Howard Shanker, the group’s attorney who has handled many environmental cases in the past, the comments must be substantive in order to be useful in court.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio, candidate for City Council Karlene Keogh Parks, Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) members, No South Mountain Freeway supporters, and representatives from the Sierra Club and the Phoenix Mountain Preservation Counsel were all present at the meeting. Organizers were hoping to bring together hundreds who are passionate about the issue to discuss what can be done, but only about 50 people showed up to give their support.
PARC is asking for donations to pay for experts to help identify problems in the DEIS and for their legal counsel. PARC believes litigation will be necessary.
So far the group has worked with Steve Brittle, president of Don’t Waste Arizona, who has identified a few issues with the report.
The first issue is that the report does not mention possible impacts of pollution from trucks coming from Mexico. If the South Mountain Freeway is built, Brittle believes it would cut 55 to 60 miles off a truck route that currently goes from Canada to Mexico, which would cause those trucks to come through the city instead.
The second issue Brittle identified was that the report does not mention the Joint Air Toxics Assessment Program or JATAP study that was done in 2005. That report shows there is already an issue with certain toxic chemicals in the air on the GRIC. Brittle believes a freeway would only worsen these conditions.
Brittle has spent years on the Arizona State Emergency Response Commission so he says the first issue that jumped out to him in the DEIS is the lack of planning for possible hazardous materials being transported on the South Mountain Freeway.
Brittle also pointed out more air quality issues and traffic congestion at the west junction of the planned freeway. The report avoids those issues, he said.
The final issue Brittle identified is the religious and racial discrimination and civil rights violations caused by blasting through South Mountain. The mountain is central to the GRIC creation story and according to Michael Tashquinth, a GRIC community member who was present at the meeting, the mountain is a sacred location for the Indian community.
“You live at the base of our church,” he told the group.
The clock is ticking for public comments to be submitted to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). All comments must be submitted before July 26. To read the report or to submit comments, visit southmountainfreeway.com.
For more information on PARC, visit protectazchildren.org.
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