Agency wrong to stop regulating Rosemont Mine site’s streams, washes, EPA says | Local news – Tucson, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona 2021-07-31 14:00:00 –

The US Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to relinquish its proposed authority over the Rosemont mine has received sharp criticism from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA says the corps’ decision to open the door to build Rosemont without the permission of the Clean Water Act inaccurately assessed the nature and ecological value of some cleansing and wetlands at the mining site. ..

EPA’s criticism in Star’s recently obtained document arises when two federal agencies are preparing to revise and perhaps strengthen the rules that allowed the corps to make Rosemont’s decision.

The rule, adopted last year, excludes federal authorities under the Clean Water Act for development along normally dry streams. It also severely restricted federal control of development along more frequent streams, rather than year-round.

However, even if it turns out, the corps says it will not retreat from the March 2021 decision to remove all irrigation and stream authority at mining sites on the eastern slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains.

The corps will stick to that stance for five years, except for a successful court challenge from its opponents, the agency told Star.

This decision did not revoke the 2019 Clean Water Act permit issued to the mine, but a new basic rule that does not give federal authority to Rosemont developer Hudbay Minerals Inc. Gave me the opportunity to seek permission to build an open pit mine under. Washing.

In its response, the EPA said the corps analysis was “defective in some important areas that led to false conclusions.”

The corps misidentifies the nature of some irrigation near the site, cannot misidentify wetlands, and considers connections that exist via tributaries between some irrigation and navigable waterways that can regulate irrigation. He said he didn’t.

When asked about the EPA’s response, Corps spokeswoman Dena Odel simply said, “We support the technical analysis presented in the approved jurisdiction decision.”

If the corps’ decision is valid, the proceedings filed by environmentalists and Native American tribes to overturn the corps’ 2019 Rosemont permit are probably controversial.

This will remove one of the two hurdles that impede the $ 2 billion mine construction project after 14 years of planning, debate and proceedings.

Another hurdle was the 2019 US District Court order after the proceedings, overturning the individual approval of the mine by the US Forest Office. The ruling has been appealed by Hadbay and the US Government in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

National controversy

The battle for Rosemont’s status under the Water Purification Act is a miniature version of the controversy over the regulation of temporary streams that has continued nationwide for over 15 years.

Temporary streams usually carry water only after a storm and are the main form of lavage and stream in the southwest, including Santa Rita’s Rosemont site southeast of Tucson.

Throughout the Obama administration since the mid-2000s, the EPA and the corps have given developers, first with informal guidelines, then with formal rules, water purification to drain dredging and fill these streams with material. Requested to obtain legal permission.

The Trump administration abolished the rules in 2017 and issued a less restrictive navigable body of water protection rule about a year ago.

The rule has suspended the regulation of development in line with the temporary flow. Also, with intermittent streams that flow much more often, regulation is only possible in limited circumstances.

Water flows in an intermittent stream when the groundwater level rises or after the snow melts. However, the rules for navigable waters begin for them only if they contribute to the flow to the downstream navigable waterways during a typical weather year.

Under the old rules, the corps said that cleaning about 100 acres from the 8,676 acres of “review area” in and around the Rosemont site was regulated by the Clean Water Act, even if it was mostly temporary. I tentatively concluded that it was a target. With the 2019 permit, Hadbay will be able to drain the dredger and fill 42 acres of cleaning fluid with material. However, the corps’ March decision says that none of those washes are covered.

EPA: Stream connects to the Santa Cruz River

Some details on corps decisions and EPA response ::

• The corps said most cleanings on the site were temporary and unregulated. There are three intermittent washes, but none connect to the closest navigable waterway, the Santa Cruz River, 58 miles downstream.

However, the EPA is under the jurisdiction of federal authorities because the mining area has at least five intermittent, permanent (year-round) streams that connect to the Santa Cruz River via other tributaries. Said. The EPA said it confirmed this by analyzing seven river flow meters in the region and corroborating the results with river flow modeling conducted by a Hadbay consultant.

• Navigable body of water regulations cover wetlands adjacent to certain tributaries, but the corps did not have sufficient wetland conditions to support prosperous vegetation under saturation and flooding, so with Rosemont Spring. We found that one wetland called was not eligible.

The EPA has come to the conclusion in another way. During three visits to the area, authorities discovered wetland vegetation, wetland-friendly soil, and indicators of the presence of streams.

• The corps concluded that one stream in this area of ​​the Wasp Gorge is temporary, based on field observations, as it “has a very small connection to groundwater and is not well defined.” ..

However, the EPA said there was evidence that Wasp was “likely to be intermittent.” The EPA said surface water was found there during 14 of the 20 visits to the area from 2005 to 2019.

“Environmental deterioration”

Three months after the Corps’ Rosemont decision this year, the EPA and the Corps noted that the current rules were inadequate and will be revised.

The two agencies have determined that the rules of the Trump era “lead to serious environmental degradation,” EPA administrator Michael S. Regan said in a news release.

Stakeholders such as state and local governments, tribes, scientists and non-governmental organizations “have a devastating impact on critical waters under the 2020 rules,” Regan added.

Authorities said in a memo that the impact of the rule was particularly strong in the southwest.

In Arizona, 99.6% of the 1,284 streams analyzed by the Corps between June 22, 2020 and April 15, 2021 were considered “temporary resources outside their jurisdiction” and were unregulated. In New Mexico, all 258 streams evaluated during that period remained unregulated.

Nationally during that period, the corps determined that more than 40,000 streams and 76% of other water resources were “non-jurisdiction”, which means they were not eligible for federal regulation. According to officials, 333 projects nationwide that would have required a permit from the Clean Water Act under the old regulations were not required under the new regulations.

The tribe is not waiting

Another federal proceeding is not waiting for a rewrite. It overturns navigable water rules, hoping that favorable results would invalidate the corps’ decisions made under those rules, which liberated Rosemont and hundreds of other projects from federal authorities. I’m trying.

Proceedings filed by six tribes, including two in southern Arizona, are being tried in the US District Court in Tucson.

The EPA and the Corps responded by asking Judge Rosemary Marquez of the US District Court to send the rules for navigable waters back to the agency to start over without throwing them away.

This would avoid potentially unnecessary proceedings against some of the current rules when the new rules were drafted, the respondent said. It saves limited resources and “will be most useful for the benefit of the judicial economy,” officials said.

Authorities said the rules may resolve the allegations in the proceedings, as all members of the public can comment on the proposed new rules. If not, you can also challenge the new rules.

However, these efforts to maintain the current rules while pushing for rewriting represent an irreconcilable position, said Stu Gillespie, a tribal lawyer whose clients are the Tohono O’Odham and Pascua Yaqui tribes in southern Arizona. ..

“They show that authorities are trying to avoid dealing with the rules as they are today,” Gillespie said. “That’s why the tribes sought to withdraw the rules, wipe the slate clean, and keep these illegal jurisdiction decisions from seeing the light of day.”

In particular, the corps’ decision to remove Rosemont’s jurisdiction could cause irreparable harm to the Ordam and Yaquis, who “have relied on the site’s life-giving water for thousands of years.” Said the move.

Due to the five-year term of the decision, “not only are the harms to the environment serious and irreversible, but the legal consequences are long-lasting,” he said.

Companies cite economic harm

However, seven Arizona business interest groups that intervened in proceedings supporting the EPA and the Corps’ position say that breaking existing rules before the new rules are approved would cause substantial financial damage. .. These groups represent the interests of home construction, sand and gravel, contracts, ranches and agriculture.

Such behavior, under the Water Purification Act, “puts companies in the same kind of uncertainty that has plagued them for years under ambiguous, widespread, and frequently changing jurisdiction rules. It rushes in, thereby disrupting important business projects and sacrificing livelihoods, “said the business group. ..

“Clarity as to which body of water or land has jurisdiction is important to the vitality of regulated entities operating under these regulations nationwide,” the group said. “Landowners and businesses that make mistakes face severe criminal and civil punishment.”

Tony Davis (520-349-0350) or tdavis@tucson.com..Follow Davis Twitter @ tonydavis987..

Agency wrong to stop regulating Rosemont Mine site’s streams, washes, EPA says | Local news Source link Agency wrong to stop regulating Rosemont Mine site’s streams, washes, EPA says | Local news

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