Friday, May 13, 2011

Gila River: Stop the South Mountain Freeway Loop 202

Stop the South Mountain Freeway
News Release

Gila River Against Loop 202 Holds First Community Outreach Meeting
DATE: Thursday May 12, 2011, 10:15AM
Komatke, AZ-District 6

Gila River Indian Community
Over 20 concerned Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) members and O’odham from other tribes attended Gila River Against Loop 202′s (GRAL202) first community outreach meeting on Saturday May 7th, 2011, at the District 6 Learning Center.
“We’re here to listen to the people, the community, and elders, and to inform them of the issues surrounding the Loop 202 and to fill in what the TTT [GRIC Transportation Technical Team] hasn’t,” said Wesley Miles, a volunteer with GRAL202 from Komatke.
Community members welcomed Saturday’s outreach meeting. Those present shared their ideas for ways to hold GRIC leadership accountable. “All we’ve been hearing is that this freeway is going to happen and we don’t have any say. It seems like the Community’s voice is being overlooked,” said one elder at the meeting.
The meeting is the first in a series of community events aimed at informing GRIC members of the “No Build” option regarding the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) proposed eight-lane South Mountain freeway extension to the 202 loop. GRIC’s TTT has presented GRIC with only two options: an on-reservation alignment and an off-reservation alignment.
The two currently proposed routes are less than a mile apart and will have the same harmful effects on the Community’s air quality, health and traditional cultural properties. The on-reservation alignment will result in a loss of approximately 600 acres of tribal land, and the forced relocation of Akimel O’odham and Pee-Posh families. The off-reservation alignment would gouge a 40-story high, 200-yard wide cut into Muadag Do’ag (O’odham name for South Mountain), which is sacred to all O’odham and Pee-Posh.
While the community has been informed of those two freeway alignments, the “No Build” option listed on ADOT’s website has been dismissed by both GRIC’s TTT and tribal leadership. We are sending the message out that “No Build” is the only option that preserves O’odham and Pee-Posh traditions and is also beneficial for Laveen and Ahwatukee residents who will be affected by the noise and pollution of a new freeway.
The proposed freeway is still in the pre-Environmental Impact Statement phase. We believe the freeway planning should go no further. If “GRIC has the sole authority to decide if and where a freeway might be built or studied on its land,” as stated by ADOT, then ADOT must respect the wishes of the Community.
GRIC Governor William Rhodes and tribal council have not yet challenged ADOT’s proposed 202 extension, and have not voiced the Community’s opposition. By not presenting the “No Build” option, GRIC leadership is failing to uphold two previous resolutions approved by the Community, which both stated the Community does not want the freeway at all. Over the last year, GRIC TTT presented GRIC members with information and surveys regarding the South Mountain extension, but did not present the “No Build” option.
The failure of GRIC tribal leadership to present “No Build” compelled concerned GRIC members to oppose the freeway, under the name Gila River Against Loop 202. We directly oppose both proposed alignments of the South Mountain extension to the 202. Our goal is to stop the freeway in order to protect the culture, health, and environment of the Community, and to prevent the desecration of Muadag Do’ag.
Community members at Saturday’s outreach meeting were pleased to know that there is a grassroots effort mobilized to stop the freeway. “It’s exciting to see a group of people from Gila River who won’t back down to the environmental, ecological and cultural destruction the freeway would bring.” said Darius Enos, of Gila Crossing village.
Besides outreach, we are pressuring GRIC tribal leadership to uphold past Community resolutions against the freeway, and are supporting a community referendum that calls for “No Build” on GRIC tribal land. The referendum needs signatures of over 600 registered GRIC voters by November 2011. GRAL202 volunteer Linda Paloma Allen, of Bapchule, stressed the need for more volunteers and said, “We’re calling for more help. There’s a lot of work to be done in key areas, but it has to come from the Community. At this time, we need Community members to submit their comments on the 202 extension directly to ADOT by the June 3 deadline.”
The Regional Transportation Plan-Freeway Plan (RTPFP) is an ADOT program focused on the freeways in Maricopa County. ADOT is taking comments on the RTPFP from the public until June 3. Anyone, GRIC members and other Arizona residents, can pressure the RTPFP program about the South Mountain Freeway.
Some of the support we are asking for can come in the form of door to door canvassing for the 202 referendum, distribution of freeway fact sheets, assistance with research, anti-202 artwork, donations to offset the costs of printing, gas cards, and elder outreach.
Also present at the meeting was representation from No South Mountain Freeway, a coalition of urban citizens that oppose the Loop 202 extension and who support the self-determination of GRIC members.
Allen went on to state that GRAL202 is not fighting for just those attending the meeting, but also for the future health of young children in the Community.
“GRIC has said no twice before. What will it take for them to listen?”
For more information on GRAL202, history and facts about the freeway and ways to support in the No Build effort, please contact us at:
FACEBOOK : Gila River Against Loop 202 and No South Mountain Freeway
Ways to take action in your community to bring awareness to the impacts of the South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway:
1) Submit your No Loop 202 freeway comments to ADOT-RTPFP by June 3rd to the following:
ADOT Five Year Program
Communication and Community Partnerships
206 S. 17th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Follow this link to read documents concerning ADOT’s Five Year Program which encompasses the RTPFP:
2) Pressure tribal officials.
-Sign GRIC referendum against Loop 202 freeway (registered GRIC voters only)
Contact GRAL202 for information on how to sign.
-Submit your No Loop 202 freeway comments to:
District 6 councilman Anthony Villareal
District 6 councilman Terrance Evans
Phone 520.562.9720 (number for both)
Fax 520.562.9729 (fax for both)
GRIC Transportation Technical Team
520.562.9849 fax
3) Volunteer with or donate supplies to Gila River Against Loop 202.
4) Attend and support No Build awareness meetings held by Gila River Against Loop 202.

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