Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series on some of the questions yet to be answered on what impact construction of the South Mountain Loop 202 will have on local residents.
Despite some signals that the Gila River Indian Community might be willing to consider a South Mountain Loop 202 route on tribal land, state officials still have Pecos Road marked as the only alternative through Ahwatukee Foothills.
But despite almost 10 years of planning for the freeway, there are still several major questions about what impact the freeway will have on local residents.
One of the questions is what will happen if wells in the path of the freeway, that supply water to lakes and golf courses in The Foothills, can’t be relocated.
Rep. John McComish has tried to get an answer, but so far all he has learned is that the Arizona Department of Transportation will cross that bridge when they get to it.
“Their protocol is you don’t address that issue until you reach a decision on where the freeway goes,” McComish said.
But he thinks that the state should be investigating the ability and cost to move some of the 26 wells identified along Pecos Road before making a decision on where the freeway will go.
“This should help you make the decision, not the other way around. It should be part of the decision-making process” McComish said.
The loss of well water is a critical question for The Foothills.
“In The Foothills it’s absolutely significant,” said HOA board member Chad Blostone. “There’s a golf course and five lakes and they are fed by one well right in the middle of the (proposed) freeway. There is no doubt that the well needs to be moved. The question is can it be moved and where do you move it to,” he said.
Because well water feeds into what they call Lake One near 24th Street and Chandler Boulevard, and then flows down to the four other lakes, Blostone said a new well would need to be near Lake One. And because the water is also used by the gold course, quality of water would also be an issue.
According to ADOT, wells would be relocated out of the freeway’s path at the state’s expense. But if a replacement location wasn’t possible, ADOT would try to find an alternative source of water, with the state paying for any extra costs. And if that wasn’t possible, then ADOT would compensate the HOAs for the value of the water rights.
The worst case scenario for The Foothills would be if no new location could be found.
Blostone said that the association couldn’t afford to buy potable water from the city to use in the lakes and on the golf course.
“We have five lakes, we just couldn’t do it,” he said. Plus, said Blostone, Arizona would compensate the HOA for the loss of water, but in a lump sum, not into perpetuity, so eventually the lakes would have to be shut down.
“Potentially it could have a significant impact on the area,” affecting property values. “Homeowners have an expectation that the lakes were there and to take them away would be huge.”
It could also be a non-problem if water is found nearby and the state simply relocates the well.
The problem is that ADOT will wait until the study and design phase is done before it will begin looking into the details, like the depth of the water table and where a new well can be relocated.
Which leaves The Foothills in the same boat as many Ahwatukee Foothills residents, waiting for the next phase to see what impact the freeway will have on residents.