By Colleen Sparks
Neighbors’ push to protect their neighborhoods and the Phoenix Mountains Preserve is prompting the city to move installation of a water pipeline closer to the 51 freeway.
City of Phoenix officials said last month they intend to ask workers to install the 66-inch-diameter water pipeline closer to the freeway, pending final approval of a right-of-way agreement with the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). The city’s Water Services Department has a draft agreement with ADOT for permanent use of the right-of-way next to the freeway as an alternate route for the pipeline.
This pipeline is expected to start at the 24th Street water treatment plant near 24th Street and Maryland Avenue, head north along 21st Street, go west on Myrtle Avenue and then north near 20th Street, ending at 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard. An open house for the public to ask questions and learn more about the pipelines will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral at 1973 E. Maryland Ave.
Residents in three neighborhoods along with the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Council, Inc. had sent the city petitions urging it to stop plans to build that pipeline and another one on local streets and in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. While several said they recognized that pipelines are needed to prevent water shortages, they wanted the city to take more time to study different options for supplying water and to better involve the public in discussions.
While the Phoenix Land Use and Livability Subcommittee voted unanimously last month to deny the petitions, it did support the city’s plans to move the 66-inch pipeline so it would have less impact on neighborhoods and the Preserve after residents and lawmakers met several times to discuss residents’ concerns. The subcommittee, which is made up of four City Councilmembers, also told city staff members to keep engaging the community in talks and plans about the project. Residents have said they believed the pipeline alignment study was flawed, the pipelines were not needed and would cause safety and traffic issues.
“We know there’s been some criticism about the alignment process,” said Darlene Helm, deputy Water Services director for the city of Phoenix. “We’re really trying to work through to make sure we’ve accounted for everything.”
The 66-inch-diameter main is needed to address drought concerns on the Colorado River and will provide alternative water supplies to north Phoenix as that water shortage looms, city officials said.
Katherine Roxlo, a Biltmore Highlands neighborhood resident who organized the neighbors’ action, is glad the pipeline will be moved closer to the 51 freeway but she is not completely satisfied with the planned route.
“There’s still people that we feel are going to be impacted,” Roxlo said. “They could have paused it. You can wait a month or two to do it right.”