Southern Exposure

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Tucson Weekly senior writer Jim Nintzel will bring us up to date on the big issues of the day from Southern Arizona.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," time for Southern Exposure, our regular look at news from Tucson and our points south. And we'll look at a new book that chronicles the soundtrack of the Vietnam War. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Donald Trump is returning to the Valley in advance of Arizona's March 22nd presidential preference election. Trump's campaign says the rally will likely be Saturday afternoon, time and location to be determined. It'll be Trump's third visit to Arizona during the campaign. On the Democratic side Bernie Sanders plans to hold a rally in Phoenix tomorrow, no confirmation on time or location. Tonight's look at news from Tucson and other areas south of the Gila focuses on the future of an A-10 at David Mountain Air Force Base and the future of the open pit copper mine. Joining us now, tonight's guest Jim Nintzel, senior writer for the Tucson. The Air Force second visited there a month or so ago and talked to us about the future of the A-10 at the base.

Jim Nintzel: The A-10 is the Air Force's close air support aircraft. Which means unlike a lot of other planes it can get right down into the combat zone, fire upon the opposing troops, it can provide a lot of relief to the troops on the ground. And the Air Force was looking to retire the A-10 because the Sequester had pinched the Pentagon's budget and they had to cut 78A-10 was what they chose to cut. It was bad news for Tucson because the Air Force Base is the main training place for them. We don't want or base to go away because it's a huge economic boost to our region.

Ted Simons: Indeed. Sound like renewed until 2022, something along those lines?

Jim Nintzel: At least until then. The John McCain is fighting to keep it in the skies. Martha McSally is down there, she's an A-10 pilot, she's definitely there fighting for it. The F-35 is supposed to do all the different jobs of the planes and there's a lot of skepticism it can provide the same close air support the A-10 can provide. The troops want to keep the A-10 in the sky.

Ted Simons: I've heard a lot of residents are concerned about the noise of the F-thrive as well.

Jim Nintzel: They are, but we haven't been selected as an F-35 training base. Just like spring training, you're taking our planes away from us, as well. Maybe some visits from the F-35, it's been through there a few times, but no plans for a permanent home there.

Ted Simons: The future of the Air Force Base looks okay for now. Talk to us about the open copper money.

Jim Nintzel: This is a mile wide mine and the builders need to get Forest Service permission to get going in the process. They are running into regulatory hurdles for a number of reasons. The army Corps of Engineers is skeptical, the EPA similarly has concerned in that area. We have a jaguar.

Ted Simons: I've seen photos.

Jim Nintzel: El Jefe is loose in that area so there are concerns, and ocelots in the area, as well. There are a lot of concerns about what the impact of this mine would be. The owners of the mine, a company called had you had bay minerals from Canada have been looking into developing it. They have recently announced they are putting it on the back burner for a while at least because copper prices are so low and there are regulatory issues to get past.

Ted Simons: There's a concern with water being pumped from an aquifer that serves two areas.

Jim Nintzel: Definitely a factor. There's an aquifer near the Green Valley area kind of south of Tucson. The idea is they are going pump water from one side of the mountain and carry it over to the other side in order to wash the rocks over there. People are not really excited about seeing their drinking water over there, and there's concerns that the wastewater from the mine could pollute Davidson Canyon and very sensitive watersheds on the other side of the San Arias.

Ted Simons: How long?

Jim Nintzel: They need to see copper prices come back and they are tumbling in a big way. Earlier they had said they need to get $350 a pound for this mine to work. They have not developed a mine in the United States yet. They have done Canadian mines and recent lien in Central and South America but this is their first U.S. mine.

Ted Simons: Before you go, I understand Tucson is a UNESCO world city of gastronomy.

Jim Nintzel: It names world cities of literature, folk art, world cities of music; they are around the globe in 35 different countries. Tucson is the first one to be named a city of gastronomy. We have been farming that area for 4,000 years according to the archeological evidence down there. And we've got a lot of great restaurants. But also just a really interesting mix of foodstuffs in our region. This was something that the city of Tucson pursued along with some other groups down there, and finally won this designation.

Ted Simons: I understand there are seed exchanges, these sorts of things?

Jim Nintzel: It's a group called Native Seed Search, founded two or three decades ago with the idea of preserving seed diverse and making sure we don't go into a mono-agricultural society where we don't have the diversity of the seeds to keep the genetic diversity going so. They have been banking these seeds of all sorts of different plants for several decades now. And the idea is you bring them out, grow some crops that were native to the area.

Ted Simons: So not just a bunch of nice restaurants or a couple of cool chefs, it's farming, agriculture, the history, the DNA from 4,000 years ago. That's amazing.

Jim Nintzel: Continuously farmed for a long time.

Ted Simons: And this is creative cities network? That's what this is part of?

Jim Nintzel: Exactly. They are scattered around the globe, it's going to put us on the map for a lot of tourists to come and check out what we have going on in the food front.

Ted Simons: We should mention, one of our guests is an author with the Tucson Festival of Books. That's a big deal down there.

Jim Nintzel: It's the fourth largest in the country down there, second weekend in March every year, hundreds of authors showing up, panels for everything, fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, anything you're interested in, you can find it at the Festival of Books.

Jim Nintzel: Spectacular event, and one of our finest. You missed out, Ted.

Ted Simons: I missed out on the books and some good food.

Jim Nintzel: You can get down for the food any time.

Ted Simons: All right, good to see you.

Jim Nintzel: Always a pleasure.

Jim Nintzel:Tucson Weekly senior writer

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