By Tony Davis for Arizona Daily Star
The Army Corps of Engineers told the Tucson Audubon Society this week that it’s reviewing the federal permit it granted nine years ago to a huge development in Benson – but not much more.
In a tacit statement, a top Corps official in Los Angeles wrote that his regulatory staff “is in the process of gathering information and reviewing the circumstances and conditions of the permit in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, within our regulatory authority.
“While I cannot estimate the duration of this review, my staff will notify you once it is complete,” wrote Lt. Col. Dennis Sugrue, acting commander and district engineer of the Corps’ L.A. District Office
Sugrue said nothing more specifically about the permit in his July 14 letter to Karen Fogas, Tucson Audubon’s executive director. His letter left it unclear whether he has actually granted the group’s request of May 19 for a full-fledged reconsideration of the permit given to Whetstone Ranch, the predecessor of the current Villages at Vigneto project. All that’s clear is that the Corps hasn’t denied this request yet.
His letter comes nearly two months after Audubon wrote the Corps seeking reconsideration of the permit. It comes 17 days after the project’s developer wrote the agency, saying it doesn’t think that 4,139 acres in the development not covered by the original permit can be permitted later, “if and when this area is developed.”
If the Corps adopts that position, Vigneto developer El Dorado Holdings could proceed with developing the 8,200 acres that was covered by the original permit, starting in January. The developer’s representative, Michael Reinbold, wrote the agency that development of those 8,200 acres could proceed in the meantime “as its own ‘single and complete’ project.”
Tucson Audubon is seeking reconsideration of the permit partially because of the larger project size and partially because of what it says is new information about endangered species and other issues involving this permit.
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