By Colleen Sparks
Residents in three neighborhoods and in a grassroots organization are pushing the city of Phoenix to stop plans to build two water pipelines on local streets and in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.
A group of neighbors gave the City Council two petitions at its Dec. 18 meeting urging officials to halt activities related to the development and construction of the planned 48-inch-diameter and 66-inch-diameter water pipelines until a new alignment study is done. One of the petitions also said the current pipeline alignment study is flawed and the pipelines are unnecessary. The petitions were sent on behalf of residents in the Biltmore Highlands, Madison Heights and Granada Park neighborhoods.
The Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council, Inc., sent city officials a letter in late October relaying concerns about the city’s plan to run the 66-inch-diameter pipeline from the 24th street water treatment plant around 24th Street and Lincoln Drive north, winding up in Dreamy Draw Recreation Area in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.
While City Council members legally were not allowed to respond to residents’ specific comments as they were not on the agenda, Mayor Kate Gallego and City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio did say staff members were trying to address residents’ concerns, said Katherine Roxlo, a Biltmore Highlands neighborhood resident who is organizing the neighbors’ action.
“It’s not that we don’t think these pipelines are needed,” Roxlo said. “Our ask is, press pause, give us time to allow community input into the process. We really want both of these pipelines to not go through the neighborhoods.”
Roxlo and other neighbors also do not want the pipeline to run in the Preserve. Her group said it does not want pipelines under their residential streets as they believe the work will cause major traffic disruptions, as well as generate health and safety risks to neighborhoods and schools and possibly damage home structures, among other problems.
The city plans to rehabilitate and/or replace a 48-inch-diameter water main that provides water to the north part of the system, going from the water treatment plant at 24th Street west to Maryland Avenue, to 20th Street and north to Orangewood Avenue, where it will cross the 51 freeway and tie into the existing pipeline, according to Stephanie Bracken, public information manager for the Phoenix Water Services Department. The existing 48-inch-diameter pipeline is at the “end of its useful life,” said Darlene Helm, deputy Water Services director for the city of Phoenix. The 66-inch-diameter main is needed to address drought concerns on the Colorado River and will provide alternative water supplies to north Phoenix as that water shortage looms, Bracken said.
“Obviously most of our infrastructure we build in roadways so it’s something that we hear frequently, not just in this neighborhood but when we’re doing construction in roadways people are concerned,” Helm said. “Our response to that is we know there’s going to be an impact and we’re trying our best to minimize that, to make sure residents can still go about their normal activities, Amazon deliveries, garbage picked up.”
The Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council, Inc. in its letter to the city said the group is “gravely concerned that the proposed pipeline alignment through the Phoenix Mountain Preserve will negatively and irreversibly impact important undisturbed Preserve areas and the integrity of the Preserve as a whole.” The Preservation Council members and residents in the three neighborhoods said they feel the city has not given the public enough time to learn about the pipelines and not studied other routes sufficiently.
Clayton Freed, civil engineer three for the city’s Water Services Department, said fences would be put up around areas where the pipeline is being installed in the Preserve. Some trails will likely be closed for a few weeks at a time but there will be hiking allowed in other areas. Helm said experts are working with the city to determine how to put native plants back in the Preserve after the pipeline is installed.
The current alignment for the 66-inch diameter pipeline is being reviewed and may change, Bracken said. To learn more, visit phoenix.gov/waterservicessite/Pages/droughtpipelineproject.aspx.