By Aisha Sander
Patagonia, AZ. September 4, 2019.
Approximately 50 people attended the Forest Service “Public Scoping Open House” at Patagonia Union High School about the proposal for Sunnyside Exploration Drilling (SED) Project in Patagonia Mountains in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, in the vicinity of Flux Canyon. This open house marked the beginning of the Public Scoping phase in the environmental assessment for this proposal, which lasts for 45 days (Oct. 21, 2019).
The Forest Service had officers available to answer questions from the public, including a table for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, Biological Resources, Cultural Resources, Water Resources and Other resources (like recreation). Arizona Standard, LLC also had a table at the open house.
In the Public Scoping Open House a one page summary was provided regarding the proposal. The entire Plan of Operations (93 pages) can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/111128_FSPLT3_4729499.pdf.
The proposal is to create up to 30 constructed drill sites within three primarily drill areas on National Forest lands resulting in a disturbance of 11.55 acres of land. No more than two drill pads at a time will be active. Drilling would occur 24/7 requiring approximately 36 people per day up to seven years. Currently, “it is anticipated that drilling will proceed sequentially from one drill area to another rather than drilling in multiple drill areas concurrently.” (Public Scoping Open House Report, Forest Service, 2019)
The SED project would need to make improvements to approximately 7.8 miles of Forest Service roads, and 0.81 miles of new temporary low standard non-system access roads. There would be a sign warning visitors of heavy equipment posted at both ends of the drill site as well as a safety fence to separate the site from where roads are not closed. For safety, public access to drill sites would be limited through one or more locked gates.
The SED project will use up 12,500 gallons of water per day per drill rig when drilling and an additional 2000 gallons on dust control for access roads. The SED project will transport water from Nogales and be transferred to five 3500 gallon reserve tanks at each of the two laydown yards. Water will be distributed either by pumping to nearby drill pads and secondary storage tanks from which the water would flow under gravity to individual drill sites via a system of water hoses.
How to Comment:
The Forest Service presentation emphasized that people should send all their comments in written form by October 21, 2019. Comments should be within the scope of the proposed action, have a direct relationship to the proposed action and must include supporting information. You can submit comments online at: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/commentinput?Project=55719
You can mail your comments to: Sierra Vista Ranger District, District Ranger, c/o Rick Goshen, 4070 S. Avenida Saracino, Hereford, AZ 85615.
Note: **The PRT will feature this story in the upcoming October issue with more in-depth coverage and feedback from those living in Flux Canyon.