Read or download the 20th Anniversary Issue of Get A GRIP
Looking Back on 20 Years of Advocacy
Sally Smith, GRIP President
As I think about GRIP’s accomplishments over the past two decades, my thoughts keep returning to Margaret Mead’s sage advice to “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Twenty years ago, Phelps Dodge needed to get its three copper mines permitted under the new state Mining Act. At that time, public involvement in community environmental issues was challenging, often unwelcome, and sometimes threatening. Some of us were concerned that without a strong community voice, the powerful Phelps Dodge (PD) would be able to walk away from its responsibility to clean up its Chino, Cobre and Tyrone mines, leaving our community with contaminated water and environment and no financial resources to clean up the mess.
Creating GRIP, a small group of us – Harry Browne, CarolBeth Elliott, Michael Berman and I – stepped up to organize our community as a counter to PD. We had overwhelming community support at the 2001 permit hearings for our $1.3 billion cleanup and reclamation plan, developed by GRIP consultant Jim Kuipers. Phelps Dodge proposed a meager $100 million in reclamation that would not have adequately protected our groundwater, environment and wildlife at mine closure. The permits approved by the state included $550 million in reclamation, more than five times the value of reclamation in PD’s closure/ closeout plan.
Over the years, GRIP has played a leadership role in rapid response to emerging environmental and conservation issues. We led the effort to resurrect the Gila Conservation Coalition (GCC) in 2003 when the Arizona Water Settlements Act was being negotiated, and it was clear that we needed a coordinated effort to protect the Gila River from a major water development project. Fifteen years later, we may be close to the end of the diversion project.
Along with our GCC partners and community volunteers, we’ve been coordinating efforts to oppose the Holloman Air Force Base proposal to create a harmful Military Operations Area over the Gila.
Thank you for stepping up and joining GRIP in our efforts to protect our community’s health and environment. Your commitment over the past 20 years has made a tremendous difference in making our corner of the world a better place. We are forever grateful.
For an interactive timeline of GRIP’s 20 years of advocacy, visit https://gilaresources.info/wp/blog/2018/12/21/1731/