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Et Tu, Bruce?

Via High Country News, the Arizona Daily Star reports that Bill Clinton's interior secretary is raising some eyebrows:

As U.S. Interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt threatened a federal takeover of the San Pedro's management back in 1999 to keep development and pumping from drying the river up.

Now, as a private citizen and development consultant, Babbitt is pushing for a subdivision northwest of Sierra Vista that several local scientists say could ultimately harm the San Pedro, the Southwest's last major, free-flowing desert river.

Babbitt is working as a land planner and minor investor in a 1,600-home, 5,000-acre development that is likely to draw from a 630-foot-deep well lying 2 to 3 miles from a leading tributary of the San Pedro.

For what it's worth, Babbitt maintains the project is "a model of sustainable development" that uses state-of-the-art conservation technology and won't lower the water table, which in the greater Tucson area is already falling at a rate of a meter a year. My understanding is that Arizona doesn't have a law similar to California's requiring that developers prove that water supplies in an area are adequate before building new homes, although in this case it sounds like the concern is less that the development will strain regional water resources generally than that taking water specifically from the San Pedro could threaten wildlife there.

--Josh Patashnik