The Main Stream

Jun 8, 2012 11:14 PM

Volunteers protest Forest Service with shovels

SIERRA VISTA - Dozens of volunteers marched into Miller Canyon to make repairs to the City of Tombstone's water supply.

The city gets their water from a nearly 30-mile aqueduct coming out of the Huachuca Mountains. The gravity powered system has been hydrating the city since the 1880s.

Flooding damaged much of the infrastructure after the Monument Fire.

Tombstone Public Works Project Manager, Kevin Rudd, was happy to see the support from volunteers.

"We should have had this kind of compassion from the Forest Service from the very beginning, Rudd said. "What I see out here is very inspirational to me."

The water catching structures are in highly protected Wilderness Area in the Coronado National Forest. The city's work is closely regulated.

The Forest Service did allow heavy machinery into the canyon to make emergency repairs last winter. All of the original pipes are filled with water again, according to Coronado National Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch.

"My folks have spent a lot of hours and a lot of their time," Upchurch said, "to help the City of Tombstone."

The repairs are only temporary and will wash away again when the Monsoon starts, according to Rudd.

"There's no intention of expanding or elaborating the system that existed before," Rudd said, "not at all."

Tom Beatty runs the Beatty Guest Ranch in Miller Canyon. His water supply is suffering because of Tombstone's construction, according to Beatty.

"They were using one spring up until the fire," Beatty said, "and they're trying to get 25 springs now."

Tombstone has held water rights in the canyon since the 19th Century.

"We're only taking a small fragment of what we really own," Rudd said, "and that's because we only have temporary repairs installed."

Most of the water is captured in small man-made ponds along the streams. Then pipes deliver the water to the main aqueduct, according to Upchurch.

Many are concerned about the environmental impacts of a lack of water and noisy construction. An endangered Mexican Spotted Owl lives near one of the worksites, according to Upchurch. The Beatty Ranch is home to several rare Chiricahua Leopard Frogs.

The group is hoping for more volunteers Saturday, June 9. They will be leaving the Tombstone Football Field at 8 a.m. Volunteers can also meet the group at Miller Canyon.

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