Canyon east of Tucson could be new rock quarry

Canyon east of Tucson could be new rock quarry
Published: 05 January 2009

California Portland Cement has a lease to quarry limestone on 70 acres there but Pima County officials say the area needs protection to insure Tucson has a clean water supply and the environment is not threatened.

Now, after two years of unsuccessful opposition Pima County has new plans for a roadblock.

"We’re hoping the Obama Administration and new Interior Department will buy some time," says Richard Elias, Chairman of the Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Elias is hoping the Army Corps of Engineers will order Portland Cement to conduct a time intensive, inclusive Environmental Impact Study before proceeding. It could take ten months to a year and would require public input.

So far, there’s been an environmental assessment but it is not intensive nor does it require public scrutiny.

If it does not order the EIS, the county is hoping the project is denied a permit to go forward.

Portland Cement is planning two limestone quarries and a road connecting its operations.

They would be on state land. The state has already given its blessing. But it recently designated the area as an Outstanding Waters of Arizona, which the county is hoping will stall the project.

"It is the last year round riparian area that we have here in Pima County," says Elias. "It is also important to us because we have been trying to protect the Cienega watershed as part of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan."