An Altar Valley conservation group has reached a financial agreement with Kinder Morgan and will withdraw opposition to the company’s Sierrita gas pipeline.
Kinder Morgan has agreed to give the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance $1 million to use for conservation work in the area, which will be the site of a proposed 60-mile pipeline that will carry natural gas from Tucson to Sasabe and into Mexico.
The conservation alliance previously opposed the proposed pipeline, saying it’ll further damage pristine land in the Altar Valley, southwest of Tucson, and create a new smuggling corridor.
The group also said they didn’t believe Kinder Morgan’s plan to replant native vegetation along the pipeline would be adequate to mitigate the damage.
Pima County officials, area ranchers and other groups also disapprove of the pipeline, sharing the same concerns as the alliance.
But the tide seems to be turning as the project moves closer to becoming a reality.
The conservation alliance decided to withdraw its opposition and accept the money so the group could move on with its mission, said Program Director Sarah King.
The group still doesn’t believe Kinder Morgan recognizes the project’s adverse environmental impacts, King said.
“At this point, it appears they’ll put the pipeline through,” she said. “Our resources are best used for conservation on the ground instead of litigation.”
According to the agreement, the conservation alliance won’t receive the money until after Kinder Morgan acquires all of its construction permits and right-of-ways for the project.
The alliance will receive the money within 30 days of those acquisitions, she said.
Kinder Morgan released a statement Thursday confirming its agreement with the alliance, saying the company “looks forward to continuing to work with them on the Sierrita project.”
King said the alliance hasn’t earmarked the money yet, but it will likely use some of the money for restoration work along the Altar Wash.
The group will still participate in ongoing discussions with Kinder Morgan regarding mitigation, permits and the construction of the pipeline.
“We are certainly still planning to be involved. We are not walking away from this,” she said.
The alliance might not be the only group to reach an agreement with Kinder Morgan.
Pima County officials have recently met with the company’s representatives to discuss ways to mitigate potential damage to the area.
In a memo sent earlier this week to the County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the county made “positive progress” during its recent meeting and will continue to meet with company officials.
The county was previously seeking $12 million to mitigate the damages, but the supervisors aren’t expected to make a decision on whether to ask for the money until the June 17 meeting.
Kinder Morgan is waiting for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to give a final order to approve the project, which could happen this month.
Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a draft compatibility determination, saying it was permissible for Kinder Morgan to use 12 miles of roads in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge during construction of the project.
Fish and Wildlife officials expect to release a finalized version of the report within the next few weeks.