The owners of the closed Lakes Golf Course have been pumping water out of the lakes on the property for weeks, and it will still be weeks until the lakes are dry, they said.
“It is a very slow process,” said Terry Dugan, president of Foothills Golf Group, in an email. “We have transported all fish and turtles that we have come across and will continue to do so over to the Ahwatukee Country Club. Several of the lakes have no fish in themas they are dead lakes with no circulation or aerificatio n.
“It will take us another couple of weeks to finish draining the lakes and moving the wildlife.”
Neighbors say it’s not enough. They’ve watched for weeks as fish have died and ducks have struggled to get out of the mud.
“One of the ducks got caught in the muck,” said Debbie Whitcomb, a homeowner in the area. “It looked like it was young and it struggled and died.”
Whitcomb said she saw some workers out in a boat trying to capture fish and transport them, but the smell of dead wildlife remains.
Debbie Gibson of the Phoenix Herpetological Society said staff members have received several calls from worried neighbors but all they are able to do is advise the landowner of what to do with the wildlife. Gibson said that when society members spoke with owner Wilson Gee months ago, he didn’t sound very willing to work with them to help the animals.
The Phoenix Herpetological Society has offered to take in turtles from the ponds for a donation to help take care of them, but it has not had any turtles brought in.
“I don’t know why he keeps waiting until the dead of the summer to do this,” Gibson said.
Last summer, the owners began letting the lakes dry up naturally until neighbors complained. Eventually, Gee began filling the lakes again.
Homeowners reported water from the lakes flowing into the street. The city's Water Services Department responded three times to the site and found no evidence of lake water being discharged into the street or storm drain, according to a city spokesperson. No citation was issued.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio said while his office has received several calls from neighbors, he doesn’t think the landowner is doing anything illegal by draining the lakes, as long as the water does not go into the street.
“Is it illegal? I don’t see anything illegal going on draining the lakes,” DiCiccio said. “It is immoral? Yes. They’re creating this ecological problem for Ahwatukee Foothills. Quite frankly, Pulte is drawn into that now. They keep saying they’re not responsible, but they’re pouring hundreds of thousands into PR. The best PR they could do is get that place looking nice again. Then they’d be approaching neighbors on a positive level — but they’re not doing that.”
DiCiccio said he drives by the property every day and he has seen crews cleaning up some of the dead grass and the mud.
Johnny Dilone with Maricopa County Vector Control said officials has received one complaint about mosquitoes in the area, so they will be watching the situation carefully. Maricopa County Vector Control has treated the lakes in the past, supply mosquito-eating fish to the owners. Dilone said it is possible that if those fish were removed as the lakes were drained, mosquitoes might appear in any puddles left standing. Any standing water should be reported to vector control.
For more information on mosquitoes, Dilone said to call the county’s West Nile virus hotline at (602) 506-0700.
Pulte Homes has signed a contract with the owners of the property to purchase the land if the company is able to redevelop it. Pulte officials hope to build about 250 homes on the 100-plus acres. They’re holding several public meetings to inform neighbors and have of their plan and get consent to change the deed restrictions over the land. They’ve created a website with all the information at pulteahwatukee.com.
Neighbors in the area who don’t wish to see the land redeveloped have formed Save the Lakes. That group’s members are the main voice calling for saving the fish and animals on the Lakes property. For more information on Save the Lakes, visit savethelakes.weebly.com.