/ Modified oct 5, 2023 10:34 a.m.

Major housing development backs out shortly after San Pedro is assigned water rights

Developer Castle and Cooke pulled the plug on a subdivison that would have added just shy of 7,000 homes

San Pedro with water The San Pedro River post-Monsoon rain. September 14, 2023.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

A major subdivision that would have added a max of nearly 7,000 homes in the Sierra Vista area will no longer be built.

The decision made by developer Castle and Cooke comes shortly after the San Pedro River was assigned some federal water rights as part of the more than 40-year-old Gila Adjudication.

Those federal water rights were assigned by a judge in August and will be monitored through four stream gauges to measure surface water as well as through nine wells to measure groundwater across the National Conservation Area.

Sarah Porter, The Director of Arizona State University's Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University Sarah Porter said that the change to the river's water rights enables the Bureau of Land Management to enforce its water rights.

"If the Bureau concludes that groundwater pumping for a new development will mean that the stream gauges have run at a lower rate or that the groundwater table is going to decline, then it can go into court and try to put a stop to new groundwater use," said Porter.

That federal water right was central to a decade-old lawsuit challenging the construction of Castle and Cooke Arizona's Tribute development.

The Tribute subdivision would have covered around 1,900 acres with homes planned as close as around five miles from the San Pedro River. But now, developer Castle and Cooke has decided to not develop that land after nearly 20 years of planning.

AZPM reached out to Vice President of Castle and Cooke Arizona Rick Coffman, and while he did not have the time for an interview, he wrote in an email to AZPM that the decision was “A business decision. And we do not have any immediate plans. We are evaluating all of our options."

You can learn more about this topic on this week’s episode of Tapped on azpm.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

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