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Government bureau, plaintiffs appeal Arizona Supreme Court water decision

The San Pedro River flows in Sierra Vista, Ariz., on Jan. 18, 2000. (AP/Matt York).

PHOENIX — The federal government and environmentalists are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to undo a decision they say could be detrimental to one of the Southwest’s only free-flowing rivers.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was among the plaintiffs who filed a motion Friday asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to allow a large development next to the San Pedro River in southern Arizona.

The project is planned on roughly 2,000 acres in Sierra Vista, about 5 miles from the river. The state’s water resources department approved a permit for the Pueblo Del Sol Water Company in 2013 to pump groundwater there even though opponents say it will drain the San Pedro River.

On Aug. 9, the Supreme Court ruled that the developer proved the river has sufficient long-term water supply.

Robin Silver, one of the environmentalists involved in the Aug. 9 suit, predicted that the ruling would mean the depletion of the river, which is a critical habitat for millions of birds and is home to over 80 species of animals.

But Pueblo del Sol met its burden in proving that water would be “continuously, legally, and physically available,” the court ruled.

The ruling allowed the development to move forward.

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