FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – An array of groups are urging Arizona regulators to deny water permits needed for a major resort, commercial and residential development at the small community near the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim.
The Italian holding company that wants the Arizona Corporation Commission to approve plans to drill wells to supply the development in Tusayan recently asked for a delay. The Stilo Group said it is trying to address the concerns of a variety of groups and working to get access to federal lands it needs for the project.
The Arizona Daily Sun reported the project was approved by the Tusayan Town Council in October 2011.
But the plans for water wells are opposed by the Havasupai Tribe, the Grand Canyon National Park’s superintendent and the Sierra Club, among others.
Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor also wrote the Corporation Commission, saying he is opposed to the project unless it can show it won’t draw down the local water table.
The Sierra Club’s letter cited existing water pumping in and near Tusayan, where a handful of entities pump water from more than 3,000 feet below ground.
“After wells were drilled ... in Tusayan and Valle in 1994, Cottonwood Creek turned from perennial to intermittent and Pumphouse Spring’s flow is declining,” the Sierra Club wrote. “We don’t know conclusively whether increased water demand led to these changes, but until we fully understand the impacts of wells on Grand Canyon’s springs, we should not allow new wells to be drilled.”
The Grand Canyon National Park’s hydrologist has described his concerns for the state, too.
“Effects of groundwater withdrawal may not be seen for many years at some springs, and effects may remain or intensify for years during pumping and perhaps remain permanently once pumping ceases.
“Finally, the impacts of groundwater withdrawal on the Coconino Plateau will only be enhanced by future water resource pressures, including Coconino Plateau population growth resulting in an unmet demand by 2025, and climate-change predictions of continued hotter and drier conditions,” he said.
An attorney for the developers did not respond to a phone message on Friday.
Tusayan’s population could grow from about 550 to 5,500 or 6,000 if the entire project is completed, attorneys for the developer told the Tusayan Town Council last October.