U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement on the recent Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proving that Fort Huachuca is not jeopardizing endangered species along the water-stressed San Pedro River:
"I am gratified that the recent Biological Opinion ("BO') issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proves that Fort Huachuca is not jeopardizing endangered species along the water-stressed San Pedro River. For years, certain litigious environmental groups have tried to use the Endangered Species Act to force Fort Huachuca to combine its water-use estimates with nearby communities in Cochise County, Arizona. This would have made Fort Huachuca responsible for mitigating the off-base drawdown of the San Pedro River.
"In 2004, I worked with my Arizona colleagues in Congress, particularly former Congressman Jim Kolbe, to enact Section 321 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to specifically review the Fort's direct impact on endangered species. The resulting BO confirms that Fort Huachuca has out-performed its conservation mission and has fully offset its projected water demand of about 6,000 acre-feet a year. This also means that the Fort, a critical military intelligence installation, could expand its mission bodies if so ordered by the Department of the Army.
"More work remains to be done, however. The Sierra Vista subwatershed still faces a 4,600 acre-foot aquifer shortage, which will continue to affect the natural flows of the San Pedro River. The Fort has done its part and should be applauded for pledging itself to future environmental projects beyond what is required by the BO, including purchasing additional lands to retire wells and installing the largest solar array in the Department of Defense. I am hopeful that this news will be celebrated as a milestone and propel the civilian entities of the Upper San Pedro Partnership to continue working for the protection of the San Pedro River."