SALT RIVER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A fencing project along the lower Salt River is stirring up controversy.

[WATCH: Fencing near Salt River horses sparks debate]

The fencing is intended to prevent wild horses from crossing over busy Bush Highway. However, an animal rights group claims the fences will endanger hundreds of wild horses that roam the area.

Chandler Mundy, with the Tonto National Forest, said they had nearly a dozen horse-vehicle accidents this year and more than 20 the year before.

"It's crazy when horses are on the road, running around with traffic, going 50-60 mph," said Mundy. "It's a crazy situation."

But Simone Netherlands, with the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, said the fencing does more harm than good.

Crews are about to begin construction on 4 miles of steel post and rail fence, which will be in addition to the 10 miles of barbed wire fence that was just installed.

Netherlands claims the new fencing will have a devastating impact on the wild horses by blocking their access to the river, putting them at risk for starvation and dehydration.

"We're going to concentrate too many wild horses, with too many people and create safety risks instead of eliminating them," said Netherlands.

Netherlands also believes the fencing will have a negative impact on tubers, kayakers and other visitors by forcing them to pass through a gate and creating another raising public safety concern.

"If you want to stop horses from coming in and out, you are going to stop people from coming in and out," said Netherlands. "People just aren't going to like that, and therefore we just think this fence is not going to work the way they think it is."

Netherlands said they have no problem with the barbed wire fence, because keeping horses off the highway is a priority.

However, she doesn't believe that the new fencing near the river is the appropriate solution.

Mundy said the horses will not be denied access to the river.

Jason Barry is best known for his Dirty Dining Report which airs Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on CBS 5.  He is also the storyteller behind CBS 5's Pay It Forward which airs every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
 
 

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