SAN PEDRO RIVER

A ruling that could affect the future of the San Pedro River and the Villages at Vigneto development isn’t expected until next year.

SIERRA VISTA — Conservation organizations are waiting for a ruling from Arizona District Court Judge Raner Collins which could prevent construction of Villages at Vigneto from moving forward, but their patience will have to last into the new year.

Stu Gillespie, Earthjustice attorney, is one of the team handling the case for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Tucson and Maricopa County Audubons, Lower San Pedro Watershed Alliance, Cascabel Conservation Association and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“The litigation we brought on behalf of a wide range of state and local conservation groups and property owners is in its preliminary phases,” he said. “The Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service will be providing us with the administrative records in October. We don’t anticipate merits briefing until early next year.

“But if the developer races forward with the project in the meantime, we’ll seek emergency relief to ensure that we get our day in court and that the court has time to rule on this important case before there are irreparable impacts.”

Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter explained, “As advocates for flowing rivers, including the San Pedro, which not only sustains significant habitat for plants and animals, but are essential for a sustainable economy, we will continue to do what we think is important to protect them. Whether it is developers or the government itself, there are times when the only option left is to challenge their actions legally.

“We are engaged and many of our members and supporters are directly affected by the actions that would wring the life out of the San Pedro. We understand the importance of this river, the cienegas and the plants and animals they support, which is also why we and our members and supporters continue these actions.”

A spokesperson for El Dorado Holdings on Vigneto, said, “The case is still in its early stages and El Dorado is not even a party to the case, so we won’t speculate on the timing on any final decision.

“El Dorado always welcomes hearing new ideas for how it can develop the Villages in an even more environmentally-sensitive manner, but we insist on a commitment to focus on facts and not innuendo.”

He also reiterated the lawsuit which involved a rancher and the Center For Biological Diversity some years ago. A jury trial found CBD guilty of malicious acts defaming Jim Chilton and awarded him $600,000.

“Therefore, it’s important to wait for due process to occur in court before believing unsubstantiated allegations by the CBD and other plaintiffs in this case,” he continued. “We are confident those plaintiffs will not succeed, and their effort to kill the project in the courts will fail, especially given its broad community support in Benson and elsewhere.”

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