Letter: Drake mining claims too close to home in Parks community
I am a resident of Spring Valley. We live at the base of Government Hill in the southeast corner of Spring Valley, immediately adjacent to and in full view of Mt. Sitgreaves mountain range, its foothills and RS Hill. I am very upset to hear about plans to deface the incredible, natural beauty of one of the most stunning and glorious, serene valleys in all of northern Arizona.
As most are aware here, the Spring Valley is a rural-residential area. Traffic here is already too much for our roads to handle, asphalt and dirt. If you are unaware, the asphalt portion Spring Valley Road (mile 0-6) is in radically poor condition, a proverbial nightmare for maintenance of vehicle alignments.
The most recent "Spring Valley Road Project" was much like "sweeping cat poop under the hearth mat" instead of truly and fully addressing the real problem. Pot holes are in need of constant repair as the base of the road is left wanting after years of weather and damage(s) from current usage. The "whoop-to-do's" are like machine gun fire on our car's and truck's suspension systems. Adding heavily laden trucks and heavy equipment to this already high traffic, rural road is simply "pouring gasoline on the fire."
Is Coconino County truly ready to take on annual or bi-annual, complete removal and full replacement of Spring Valley Road in its entirety (0-6 mile marker)? With massive, heavily laden trucks, the county will not be able to simply oil and gravel. This road will be in need of complete stripping and repaving on a regular basis instead of its current "once in a blue moon" replacement plan.
At the top of the asphalt road is the Sanderson Pass. After that, the road turns quickly to dirt/cinder. While it's generally in better condition than the asphalt, the constant passage of extremely heavy trucks will literally make that road an obstacle course for the families that live on or just off it. You can count on increasing the number and size/depth of pot holes in the cinder. And you can add the miserable, increasing developments of "wash boarding" that causes instability on curves and steering issues, even on straight-aways. Plus Spring Valley Road is a bus route for Maine Elementary School. Road conditions will most certainly be in decline and our school buses will be challenged to stay in good repair for transporting of our children. The only real question is how far and how quickly the road conditions will deteriorate each and every week before it becomes a very real safety threat for all traffic and our school buses.
Additionally, there are almost no definable edges to spring valley road in most places, dirt and asphalt. Oncoming traffic is already problematic as there are many areas of Spring Valley Road with no definitions of the center line. With smaller vehicles, it is mostly manageable. But putting huge trucks, laden with heavy cargo on undefinable edges with no center line is just asking for increasing accidents including those with our also large school buses. And the downhill grade on the dirt road immediately after the pass is treacherous in rain, snow and ice. That means most of the year. By increasing traffic with heavy, hard to stop construction type vehicles, danger increases exponentially to all of the residents here. There's no way around that at all and no real way to mitigate such an impact, especially considering year-round weather impacts and associated, slippery road conditions.
The noise pollution from mining and transport will be intolerable in the relative confinement(s) of Spring Valley and along the whole route, including through the densely populated areas of Parks. Noise travels very, very far along this route. And regardless of weather conditions, the sounds will invade and impose on every single resident within miles of this proposed development and its truck routes. This entire 8+ mile area between the mining area and I-40 will no longer be a peaceful part of nature in northern Arizona.
Additionally, this proposed development and its associated, unavoidable mining and transport activities will have an extreme negative impact in the heart of the incredibly popular choice of visiting hunters: the 7W Hunting Section. Herds of elk will disappear. Packs of deer and antelope will move away. And the entire balance of natural wildlife migration(s) in this ecologically sensitive area will be forever, unnaturally altered, disrupted and displaced.
The fire roads like FR76 and many others in this area are absolute havens for outdoorsmen, campers and naturalists. This is an integral part of the local micro-economy here. Whether it's the Parks in the Pines Store and Deli or the newly established Mustang River Grill or Parks Feed and Mercantile, all will be suffering negative effects of declining tourism and hunting.
There are myriad choices for Drake to mine where entire, rather densely populated, rural communities will not become literally disemboweled and its residents virtually disenfranchised. Spring Valley and Spring Valley Road through all of Parks is not one of those places. And to absolutely destroy one of the most serene and beautiful valleys in northern Arizona is not some anyone should take lightly or gloss over.
I just realized that with "strip mining" there will be runoff. I'm sure that Drake will say that they have a plan for that. But when their containment and capture fails, the Spring Valley Wash will be contaminated. This is the exclusive capture mechanism for the entire Spring Valley Watershed area surrounded by Government Hill, Spring Valley Knolls, Mt. Sitgreaves Mountain Range and its foothills, and RS Hill. The Spring Valley Wash initiates here on Mt Sitgreaves and it traverses private properties throughout our area including mine. It feeds wildlife with its myriad ponds/tanks like Spring Valley Tank and Soreye Tank, amongst many others. Eventually, the Spring Valley Wash that starts here, feeds the Colorado River via the Grand Canyon.
This proposed physical violation of our lands and its inherent, damaging effects along with the irrefutably disruptive and potentially dangerous effect(s) on its citizens must be stopped at all costs.