The following is an update of an article published in the April, 2002 issue of The Oracle newspaper.

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Radioactive/toxic dump focus of new water challenge
Posted to Monday, April 8, 2002
By J.C. Huntington

The Canada del Oro as it appears at the base of the Catalina's
Most residents know the Canada del Oro as the dry, cement-lined wash that passes under a bridge just south of the Catalina State Park.  The only time water is seen flowing under the bridge is during heavy rains, a rare event in recent times.  

But that is not the case upstream in the Canada del Oro.   While the surface flow in the Upper Canada del Oro is intermittent, the water table is close enough to the surface of the earth to sustain lush cottonwood and willow trees and to provide year-round springs.

Fearing that the massive groundwater pumping required to feed golf courses in a proposed expansion to the SaddleBrooke retirement community will dehydrate the area and destroy its riparian character, a group called The Coalition of Canada del Oro Residents have objected to the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) plan to grant a Certificate of Assured Water Supply to Robson Communities Inc.

The Certificate of Assured Water Supply means that ADWR has determined that “sufficient water of adequate quality” will be available to meet the water needs of the SaddleBrooke extensions for at least 100 years, and is required before Robson can sell houses in their proposed SaddleBrooke extension. 

Normally, the procedure for granting a Certificate of Assured Water Supply is routine: the developer hires a hydrologist, the hydrologist does a study showing that there is enough water to supply the needs of his client's development and that current tests show the water currently meets state drinking water standards.  The Arizona Department of Water Resources reviews the hydrologist’s work, issues a Certificate of Assured Water Supply to the developer and construction begins.  

The process is so routine that Linda Stitzer, Area director for the Tucson Active Management Area, told a group of Oracle residents in April of 2001 that ADWR has never rejected a request for a Certificate of Assured Water Supply.

However, the wild card in this particular deck is the decades old Page-Trowbridge radioactive/toxic waste landfill situated a few miles from the proposed wells that will supply water for the SaddleBrooke expansion.  

Former state Solicitor General Anthony Ching is representing the Coalition and argues that the law requires Robson to present evidence to ADWR showing that the water will be of adequate quality for the next 100 years before ADWR can issue the Certificate of Assured Water Supply.

Ching also contends that ADWR, in its statutory role to protect the public, has the duty to ensure that the water will have adequate quality for 100 years, something Ching says ADWR has failed to do.

An administrative hearing on the matter began April 1 in Phoenix and involves Coalition of Canada del Oro residents, ADWR and Robson Communities, Inc. 

The hearing is a necessary step to having the matter heard by the superior court.

Ching plans to introduce the 400-page University of Arizona Page-Trowbridge Ranch Radioactive/Toxic Waste Landfill Report, written by Oracle resident Web Parton, as evidence in the hearing and will call Parton as a witness.

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