By Chris Coppola for The Arizona Republic
The Gila River Indian Community has filed a lawsuit to prevent construction of the South Mountain Freeway, following a coalition of environmental and community groups that also have challenged the freeway in court.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on June 30, contends that state and federal officials failed to “consider adequately the significant harm the freeway would inflict on the environment and on historical and cultural resources,” according to a statement released by the tribe.
The proposed freeway would link Laveen in southwest Phoenix with Chandler by way of a 22-mile extension of Loop 202 that would be built along a route that borders tribal land.
The freeway would cross part of the South Mountain Park Preserve and bring traffic close to neighborhoods in Ahwatukee Foothills.
Gila River Gov. Stephen Roe, in a prepared statement, said South Mountain is one of the tribal community’s most important and sacred natural resources.
“It is a prominent part of the community’s oral traditions and ceremonial activities, all of which are tied to the natural environment,” Roe said.
The suit challenges a decision by the Federal Highway Administration and Arizona Department of Transportation to build the freeway along the route.
Gila River officials said in their statement the agencies violated National Environmental Policy and Department of Transportation acts by failing to fully consider the harm the freeway would bring.
ADOT officials said in a statement that neither the state nor federal agency had reviewed the tribe’s suit in detail, but they remain confident all legal requirements were followed in determining the freeway route.
Read more at The Arizona Republic