Officials of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners tried at a public meeting Tuesday to convince residents, environmentalists and county officials that they're sensitive to concerns about a proposed 59-mile pipeline.
They didn't succeed. About 50 Altar Valley ranchers, other residents, activists and Pima County officials barraged the commission and Kinder Morgan officials with questions and concerns.
Kinder Morgan officials have a detailed plan to restore the 100-foot-wide swath of desert grasslands that would be cleared for the Sierrita natural gas pipeline.
They told the crowd that they'll be around to respond to concerns after their required five-year period to monitor the restoration.
Speaking to the border- security issue, they said one of their main goals is to block vehicle access to the pipeline route so its revegetation will survive.
"If there is a problem after five years, we are not going anywhere," said Nicole Pedigo, the company's environmental-project manager. "We have an office on Broadway."
Opponents were skeptical of the company's plans to use boulders, fences and timber slash to keep intruders out of the route. They said the restoration plan is "canned," not designed specifically for the area.
They're also concerned that the pipeline's erosive effects will spill over not just onto private and state-owned ranchland, but to thousands of acres of county-owned preserves that cost $44 million to set up.
"Are you prepared to put several million dollars into a fund to prevent your pipeline construction from accelerating the erosion that's already happening?" asked Thomas Sheridan, a University of Arizona anthropology professor and a longtime supporter of Altar Valley ranchers.
Among others attending the meeting at Casino del Sol near Tucson were residents of Arivaca and the Diamond Bell Ranch subdivision, which are near the pipeline route; and Tohono O'Odham tribal officials.
On StarNet: Read the live blog transcript of the Tucson-Sasabe pipeline hearing, featuring Arizona Daily Star reporter Tony Davis, at live.azstarnet.com
Contact reporter Tony Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 806-7746.