The Gila River Indian Community and Gov. Stephen R. Lewis have expressed their deep disappointment at a ruling late last week by U.S. District Judge Diane Humetewa, who rejected the Community’s request for an injunction temporarily halting construction of an extension of the South Mountain/Loop 202 Freeway.
The nearly $2 billion construction project would desecrate sacred lands on and around South Mountain – Muhadagi Doag – and permanently harm the Community’s cultural resources and members’ quality of life.
“This is a disturbing ruling for our Community and for all of us who love, respect and honor South Mountain,” said Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen R. Lewis. “This isn’t about a road for our people. Destroying South Mountain is an attack on one of our most sacred resources. The Loop 202 extension as currently planned will destroy Muhadagi Doag and its trails, shrines and archaeological treasures.”
The Community’s lawsuit – consolidated with a second lawsuit brought by other concerned individuals and groups, including some Community members – argues that federal and state agencies violated federal law by approving a freeway location that would desecrate South Mountain and by following a process that did not give proper consideration to the Community’s unique interests. The lawsuit alleges that the agencies ignored their obligations to avoid or mitigate harm to the environment and to the public health, safety, and welfare of Community members.
The Community is currently weighing its legal next steps, which could include seeking an injunction directly from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.