This editorial is the fifth in a series of discussions on seven areas of concerns with the proposed Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway (SMF). To begin the series, I discussed the fact that Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children’s (PARC’s) chances of winning in court are extremely good because the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) did a poor job studying the impacts of the SMF. For example, ADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are complicit in:
• Distortion of purpose and need for the SMF.
• Air pollution.
• Negative health effects – especially for children.
• Destruction of wells.
• Danger from hazardous materials.
• Desecration of South Mountain.
• Destruction of quality of life (noise, crime facilitation, home values).
In previous editorials, I discussed the first three specific areas of concern with the SMF. This discussion will be about the fourth topic – destruction of wells.
Much of the character of Ahwatukee is dependent on lakes. The lakes that have already been drained in the defunct Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Club remind us of why we do not want any more lakes to disappear! Lakes are a soothing part of the landscape that encourage wildlife and support our way of life. They are worth fighting for, and I commend Save the Lakes for their work in this regard.
Other Ahwatukee lakes are now threatened by the SMF. Lakewood stands to lose its identity without its lakes, and both the Foothills and Club West golf courses would cease to exist without their lakes. Yet the wells that feed these lakes would be destroyed by the SMF.
ADOT has apparently recognized that the opposition from many Ahwatukee residents who depend on the lakes poses a real threat to their SMF plan. Although the Lakewood wells are in the right of way for the SMF, ADOT has informed the Lakewood Community Association that they may be able to “move the well controls and associated piping to outside of the right of way” to save the Lakewood wells. Of course, ADOT has also said, “Such an analysis would be performed later in the design process.” In other words, they have given hope to Lakewood residents while they have also provided themselves with an easy excuse in the likely event that their idea does not work.
Early on, ADOT also said they would try to save the golf course well until it was pointed out to them that the well sits in the middle of the SMF right of way. You have probably seen it on the north side of Pecos Road just west of 24th Street. Now, ADOT has informed the Foothills Community Association that they will drill a new well to replace the one that they would destroy. Interestingly, however, in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, ADOT stated that “finding a suitable location for a new well in this area may be difficult.” In fact, the Foothills Community Association already tried to drill two new wells for their golf course, and both efforts resulted in dry wells.
I have never seen a more blatant attempt to “divide and conquer.” ADOT is just trying to get the homeowners to reverse their opposition to the freeway. It is an unstated compliment to PARC that ADOT realizes the citizen-opposition to the SMF is a potent threat. They are making promises that they know cannot be fulfilled.
ADOT just cares about making promises that will get residents off their back right now. They know these are empty promises. If construction on the freeway were to start, it would be too late to save the wells and the lakes. ADOT could just say, “Sorry, we couldn’t save the wells” and leave the residents to the consequences.
City water would be the only remaining water source at a prohibitive cost. Two more Wilson Gee golf courses would vanish, giving rise to new threats for additional development. Lakewood lakes would dry up to the doom and gloom of its residents. Even if funding for city water was available, how long do you think that could last? Within a few years, given the current extended drought conditions and the promise that it will only get worse, the city will probably continue to raise water rates and, at the same time, severely cut the water it makes available for such “landscaping.”
Now is the time to fight ADOT’s plan to destroy the remainder of Ahwatukee’s lakes. PARC’s lawsuit has been filed, and PARC needs the continuing support of those who care about the future of this community.
For more information on the SMF, how PARC will stop it, and how to donate, see the PARC website at protectAZchildren.org.
• Dr. Pat Lawlis is president of Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children’s (PARC’s), a non-profit organization by and for the residents of Ahwatukee. She has a PhD in software engineering from Arizona State University and has been a resident of Ahwatukee for more than 20 years.