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The Sierra Club, a lead national environmental advocacy group, decided to tangle itself in the effort to save trees from construction along Hwy. 179.

By Trista Steers

Larson Newspapers

The Sierra Club, a lead national environmental advocacy group, decided to tangle itself in the effort to save trees from construction along Hwy. 179.

The Sedona-Verde Valley Group of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club voted Aug. 30 to support the cause.

Club representatives met with Arizona Department of Transportation staff Thursday, Sept. 6, to address concerns. Results of the meeting were not available by press time.

Since Arizona Public Service started undergrounding utilities along Hwy. 179 between the ‘Y’ intersection and Oak Creek Bridge, people have done everything short of strapping themselves to the trees in the area to let ADOT know they want the trees to stay.

An e-mail circulated through the community that said ADOT planned to cut down more than 60 trees.

ADOT Hwy. 179 Project Manager Carl Burkhalter said in August the rumors aren’t true and that fewer than 10 trees with a diameter of 18 inches or greater would be cut down. Trees smaller than 18 inches that are cut down will be replaced.

"At this point we are still uninformed," Sierra Club Sedona-Verde Valley Group Vice Chairwoman Marlene Rayner said before the meeting.

Rayner said it seems ADOT makes private deals but leaves the public out. Information regarding the project, design and impacts needs to be available to everyone.

According to Save Sedona Trees’ weblog, three changes in the plan occurred:

n The sidewalk on the north side of the highway will wind around trees rather than run straight along the highway to save seven trees,

n Tree wells will be constructed around trees saved by the winding path due to grade changes.

n A storm drain pipe originally planned to be put in front of the Tlaquepaque wall will run near the center of the road to prevent damage to roots of trees along the wall.

Rayner said this is an example of a deal being made with a single group rather than considering the needs of those concerned.

ADOT could not be reached to confirm changes listed by Save Sedona Trees Founder Jim Law.

Protesters with neon signs brought the Sierra Club’s attention to the issue, Rayner said. When the group began digging deeper, it found many unanswered questions and missing information, prompting members to rally.

"When I personally walked down there the other day I
realized there were going to be an awful lot of trees gone," Rayner said.

Since residents and ADOT adopted a final plan for the highway after three years of public meetings, changes have been made to designs.

Rayner said that means the plan isn’t final.

In a letter to ADOT dated Tuesday, Sept. 4, the group requested ADOT stop all work between the ‘Y’ intersection and Oak Creek Bridge until certain conditions are met.

Conditions include:

n Full disclosure of original and present construction plans.

n Copies of current studies including an environmental impact study, tree survey and Oak Creek water level study.

n Allow the public and city of Sedona to examine documents provided and make changes.

Burkhalter said ADOT isn’t currently working in the area in question, APS is.

Burkhalter added ADOT wants to find out exactly what each groups’ concerns and issues are.



Trista Steers can be reached at 282-7795, Ext. 129, or
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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