There are a number of reasons to oppose both freeway proposals, and to support the NO BUILD outcome.
The health of our Community will be compromised forever. There are numerous studies in professional journals of medicine which all support the basic fact that freeways do not make good neighbors. Breathing in vehicle emissions every day of your life will lead to reduced lung function, and can cause asthma. Through daily exposure, toxins in vehicle emissions can also work their way into the bloodstream and cause abnormalities in brain development for children.
Both proposed freeway alignments come within one mile of Gila Crossing school and the Komatke Boys and Girls Club. The gases in the freeway toxins are very capable of traveling the distance to the school, as well as to the Head Start and Early Head Start just off 51st Avenue. Healthy children, with their smaller bodies that are still physically developing, are poisoned much faster than adults living in the same area. It is these children who would suffer all their lives with the health effects of the freeway. We cannot put a price on their lives.
One especially harmful freeway toxin, called dioxin, causes various kinds of cancers, and can worsen the severity of diabetes by making the body resistant to insulin and causing shifts in blood sugar levels. Dioxin was a key ingredient in the chemical warfare weapon called “Agent Orange” used in the Vietnam War. Dioxin also damages reproductive health for men and women, and is linked to sterility in men and women. Birth defects, premature births, and for reasons not yet studied, stillborn deaths of male babies are all seen in populations that live near freeways
Air pollution can make people sick, damage the environment, damage property, create haze, and reduce visibility.
GRIC Department of Environmental Quality has raised concerns that due to the way gases in freeway pollutants travel, a cloud of toxic smog would settle over the valley between the Estrella mountain range and the South Mountain range. This is, of course, exactly where the villages in District Six have been for thousands of years. This poisonous cloud would become trapped over the villages, and the families, children, and elders from the west end would literally be breathing in poison every second of the day and night.
In January 2011, GRIC was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for “developing an air quality plan that is unrivalled nationally in both breadth and depth”, said Jared Blumenfeld, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s administrator for the Southwest region. If either route of the 202 is approved, all ordinances, permits, and emissions inventories under the new plan, would essentially be worthless, because they would only be recording the fact that the 8-lane, 200 yard wide freeway scar through our lands will be dumping tons of air pollutants into our Community. The pollution from the freeway would have pollutants that irritate the lungs, reduce the amount of oxygen in our blood, cause respiratory illnesses, and aggravate existing diseases.
Our main responsibility is to leave a healthy environment for our future generations. Unfortunately city planners and regional planners don’t always consider long term impacts to the environment, and most have little or no awareness of our cultural values. Losing our agricultural traditions hurts our physical, social, and economic stability, as well as weakens the bonds that once held us together, as a community of healthy farmers. At this historic era in our water rights revitalization, we cannot deliberately waste valuable farm land to highways and commercial development.
The primary motivation for new highway systems is due to urban sprawl, when cities spread outwards into areas with a low population. Urban sprawl is one of the worst contributors for the loss of irreplaceable farm land. The loss of farmland eliminates our ability to produce our own food and raw goods, which then compromises our health, social health and physical safety.
At this point in time, the Gila River Indian Community should be considering agricultural ordinances to sustain and preserve our water rights for farming. Instead, we have allowed outsiders to pressure us to consider freeway projects that allow Phoenix suburbs to invade our lands. The freeway would pave over what we could responsibly use as life-giving farmlands for the O’odham and Pee Posh. After a legal battle of several decades for our water rights, this is the time when we should remember and relearn our rich farming traditions, and accept the important duty of acting as stewards of our natural resources.
Light rails, public transit systems, and carpool sites are a wiser investment to the region. These investments combat and reduce our carbon footprint.
Loss of Land
If we sell our land to the State of Arizona for the Loop 202 right-of-ways, we would lose over 600 acres of allotted and tribal land. All of that land would no longer be ours to develop because the Loop 202 right-of-ways would prevent and restrict the type of land use in areas surrounding the freeway.
Desecration of Muhadag Do’ag and Sacred Places
Muhadag Do’ag (South Mountain) is held sacred by the Akimel O’odham, Onk’ Akimel O’odham, Tohono O’odham, Hia’ched O’odham and Pee Posh peoples. The mountain itself is sacred for the role it plays in the creation story of the O’odham.