Monthly Archives: June 2011

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Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study

CO River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study: The Bureau of Reclamation’s Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado Regions, in collaboration with representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin States (non-federal Cost Share Partners), submitted a Proposal in June 2009 to fund the “Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study” under Reclamation’s Basin Study Program. In September 2009, the Study was selected for funding. The Study, which began in January 2010, is projected to be complete in July 2012. It will define current and future imbalances in water supply and demand in the Colorado River Basin and the adjacent areas of the Basin States that receive Colorado River water for approximately the next 50 years, and will develop and analyze adaptation and mitigation strategies to resolve those imbalances.

The Study will characterize current and future water supply and demand imbalances in the Basin and assess the risks to Basin resources. Resources include water allocations and deliveries consistent with the apportionments under the Law of the River; hydroelectric power generation; recreation; fish, wildlife, and their habitats (including candidate, threatened, and endangered species); water quality including salinity; flow and water dependent ecological systems; and flood control.

Additional Study information is provided in the “Plan of Study” and “Public Involvement Plan”.

6/29/2011 Gallup Independent: 9 percent decrease in Colorado River flow projected

6/29/2011 Gallup Independent: 9 percent decrease in Colorado River flow projected By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The average natural flow of the Colorado River as measured at Lees Ferry will decrease by approximately 9 percent over the next 50 years, according to a Bureau of Reclamation study. In addition, the average yield of the river could be reduced by 10 to 20 percent due to climate change. The “Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study Interim Report No. 1,” released June 6, also anticipates increases in the frequency and severity of droughts. The Colorado River Basin is one of the most critical sources of water in the West. The seven basin states include some of the fastest-growing urban and industrial areas in the United States. The river is the lifeblood for at least 15 Native American tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, four national recreation areas, and five national parks. Its tributaries provide municipal water to 30 million people and irrigation for nearly 4 million acres of land.

Water supply and demand imbalances already exist in some areas of the basin and are projected to increase in the future. Storage capacity of approximately four times the average inflow has helped offset demands in periods of sustained drought, such as is currently being experienced, according to Reclamation.

The ongoing study will assess water supply and demand throughout the study area through 2060 and the reliability of the Colorado River system to meet the needs of basin resources, such as water allocations and deliveries under the Law of the River.

The study, begun in January of 2010, is a collaborative effort with interested parties throughout the basin. Reports and analysis prepared as part of the study will help define options for future water management of scarce water supplies.

The interim report provides a comprehensive snapshot of the initial effort to define current and future imbalances in over the next 50 years. Reclamation is seeking comment on the interim report by July 8. Additional interim reports will be published with a final report targeted for July 2012.


6/29/2011 Gallup Independent: Revised Arizona water rights proposal

6/29/2011 Gallup Independent: Revised Arizona water rights proposal By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and a host of state parties have submitted drafts of a settlement agreement and legislation to U.S. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., to resolve the tribes’ claims to water rights in the Little Colorado River Basin. According to a status report filed with Apache County Superior Court, Kyl has advised the parties that further negotiations are required with the administration and the congressional delegation prior to introduction of the settlement legislation. In a June 9 letter on the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement agreement, Kyl stated that the parties submitted the proposed agreement to him on June 3 along with an agreement among the parties’ attorneys to recommend approval of the settlement to their respective clients.

He commended the parties for their tireless efforts to refocus negotiations and craft the settlement documents. “I know it was not an easy process,” he stated in the letter to Arizona Department of Water Resources. He also cautioned that transmitting the documents to him marks the next phase of their conversation, rather than the culmination of the parties’ efforts.

“As I have repeatedly counseled, the legislative component of this settlement must not only comport with the parties’ negotiated agreement, but must also be able to win sufficient support from Congress and the Administration as well as satisfy policy concerns. It will take time for me and my staff to conduct that analysis.” The Department of the Interior also will have to scrutinize the proposed agreement, he said.

The analysis will include detailed consideration of overall project costs relative to the benefits conferred, Kyl said. “It is quite possible that those costs will have to be further reduced. In addition, the parties have identified a select few issues that may require more attention.”

Parties to the settlement were informed March 24 by Kyl that the proposed settlement initially agreed to was too expensive and that he was unwilling to introduce legislation to authorize the settlement in its current form given the current political and fiscal climate in Washington. He encouraged the parties to reach new settlement language by June so that he might submit legislation to Congress prior to his retirement in 2012.

The negotiating parties have been meeting since then to revise the terms and make the settlement less costly. Last November, the Navajo Nation Council approved the $800 million settlement, which included three major water projects for Navajo. However, those terms are no longer in effect.

Kyl recommended in the June 9 letter that the parties refrain from seeking formal approval from their principals, boards and councils until both he and the Interior have concluded their reviews and responded to the parties. Attorneys for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe requested that a stay in the litigation remain in effect until their next status conference in September.

The U.S. Department of the Interior held a tribal listening session June 7 in Phoenix on “Current and Future Indian Water Rights Settlements in Arizona,” with Interior representatives Larry EchoHawk, Del Laverdure and Letty Belin.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly presented comments regarding the importance of Navajo Generating Station and the Central Arizona Project to Indian water rights settlements in Arizona. NGS provides almost all of the power to move Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project and will be needed to move water through the proposed $515 million Western Navajo Pipeline if it remains part of the Northeast Arizona settlement.

Shelly said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-proposed rules to require Selective Catalytic Reduction technology at NGS does not make sense. “The costs to implement would force the plant closure, have catastrophic economic impacts on the Navajo Nation and the states dependent on NGS energy, put nearly 1,000 people out of work and jeopardize our water settlement strategies.” Shelly said he has decided the Nation must work to secure the continued operation of NGS.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owns a 21.2 share in NGS, has recommended divesting its ownership by 2014, four years ahead of the date mandated by Senate Bill 1368. The utility’s contract to receive coal-fired generation from NGS expires in 2019. The Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standard Act, or SB 1368, prohibits California electric utilities from importing power that exceeds the greenhouse gas emissions performance standard once existing contracts expire.

6/20/2011 DRAFT Navajo Nation Energy Policy-Please submit comments

Please check out the Navajo Nation DRAFT Energy Policy. The Navajo Nation believes coal and coal-fired plants are a significant component of the Navajo economy and the Nation’s revenues. Please send comments to . The draft Navajo Nation energy policy is available for download at

6/28/2011 Gallup Independent: Coal key part of Navajo draft energy policy

6/28/2011 Gallup Independent: Coal key part of Navajo draft energy policy By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau NEHAHNEZAD, N.M – The Navajo Nation has unveiled a draft energy policy that includes coal as a key component of the Nation’s energy mix while not closing the door to future uranium mining and nuclear power. Members of Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s Energy Advisory Committee unveiled the draft energy policy June 22 at Nenahnezad Chapter. A public meeting is set for 6-9 p.m. Wednesday at Howard Johnson in Gallup, and 6-9 p.m. Thursday at the UNM Student Union, SUB Theater, in Albuquerque. Additional public meetings were held last week in Shonto, Cameron and Phoenix. “We have an energy policy that was adopted by the Navajo Nation Council in 1980 and then from that period of time there have been various policies that have been developed by different administrations,” Attorney General Harrison Tsosie said. “Some of those policies were presented to the Navajo Nation Council but never approved.” The new draft also will be presented to Council and if adopted, Shelly’s initiative will be the framework for future Navajo energy development.

“We think this is important. It’s the livelihood of the Navajo Nation,” Fred White, executive director of the Division of Natural Resources, said.

Coal and coal-fired plants are a significant component of the Navajo economy and the Nation’s revenues, according to the draft. As a coal producer that derives a significant amount of royalties, rent, fees, jobs and tax revenue from coal mining and production of electricity from coal, the Nation will seek to shape federal fossil fuel legislation and adapt to the new federal regulatory environment, it states.

In addition, Navajo will support newer and more efficient coal technologies being developed which lessen environmental impacts and maximize the efficient use of Navajo coal. The Nation also will continue to develop a renewable portfolio of power generating facilities that balances coal-fired generation and renewable energy generation, and will evaluate the appropriateness of implementing a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

Section 9, on nuclear matters, states that the Nation currently supports a ban on uranium mining in Navajo Indian Country. “The Nation nonetheless will continue to monitor uranium mining technologies and techniques, as well as market conditions for uranium mining and nuclear electricity generation to assess the safety, viability and potential of these activities for the future.”

Michele Morris, Shelly’s director for Policy and Management, said, “Right now we are not entertaining any new development in uranium. President Shelly and Vice President (Rex Lee) Jim’s priority for the administration currently is to comply with our existing law, which is the moratorium on uranium mining. Our goal is to comply with that until the public or the Council – the bodies that be – make the decision to change that decision.”

The Navajo Nation approved the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act in 2005 banning uranium mining and processing within reservation borders. Nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore was extracted from 1944 to 1986 under lease agreements with the Navajo Nation. In 2007, with the help of a congressional committee, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency became the lead federal agency in a five-year plan to clean up more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, contaminated groundwater and structures, and a former radioactive dump site. Emergency cleanup action has begun at three abandoned mines while assessments continue.

The draft energy policy calls for the Nation to establish energy corridors to manage the impact on Navajo communities resulting from future electrical transmission, pipeline and railroad infrastructure. This new infrastructure will provide Navajo an opportunity to unlock the value of its vast energy resources by providing transmission corridors to metropolitan centers.

A Navajo Energy Office made up of Executive Branch officials selected by the president is proposed to be established to act as a clearinghouse for energy-related projects and to facilitate energy development. A budget also must be appropriated.

White said that that last spring the Nation decided to re-energize the energy policy planning process. In partnership with the Department of Energy, an Energy Efficiency grant was obtained and a scope of work developed. Sandia National Laboratory was asked to facilitate meetings with stakeholders. Meetings were held in July, September and October with industries focused on fossil fuels and renewables, as well as Navajo leaders and individuals concerned about the environment.

A chronological order of energy decisions dating to 1923-24 as developed. They looked at work done in the 1970s that resulted in an Energy Policy adopted by the tribal Council in 1980, work done by former President Peterson Zah in the early 1990s that resulted in an energy policy statement, and work done by White’s predecessor, Arvin Trujillo.

But last October they hit a wall, bogged down by election year politics. “Nobody was interested in talking about energy policy,” White said. It was put on hold until the new administration and the 24-member Council settled in.

“The decision was to take the policy from the ’80s that was already adopted by Council and use that format and make amendments to it,” White said.

Steven Gundersen of Tallsalt Advisors in Scottsdale is serving as a consultant on development of the policy. Gundersen presented the draft to a small but curious audience at Nenahnezad, some of whom drove at least four hours from Cameron to hear the presentation.

“The policies are intended to be rather brief and rather broad,” he said. “The energy policies are directions we want to move in but are not laws.”

Tsosie said comments received from the public are “suggestions” that will be reviewed but not necessarily included in the document. “The reason for that is that the Navajo people elected certain representatives to establish policy for them and that body is the Navajo Nation Council and the president of the Navajo Nation. So this policy-setting effort is under delegation from the people to those elected officials.

“We are drafting the policy pursuant to those delegations. We’re not actually making laws. These will not be codified in the Navajo Nation Code, but it’s a document that we will use in making decisions regarding energy development on the Navajo Nation,” he said. Council first must rescind the 1980 Energy Policy.

Citing the preamble to the proposed policy, Gundersen said the Nation is establishing the energy policy to protect its natural resources and assets for the benefit of the Dine to create a self-sustaining economic future and to ensure sovereign control over the extraction and flow of resources.

Lease rent, royalty rates and charges for easements and rights of way will be equal to or greater than fair market value. When negotiating renewals, the Nation will maximize the total value of consideration. Project developers will be required to return the land to its original condition, or better, at the end of the project.

The Nation hopes to maximize revenues from large-scale energy developments by promoting Navajo majority ownership, but may designate an entity such as Navajo Tribal Utility Authority as its representative. Communities impacted by energy development will have the opportunity to provide input, and where adversely impacted, to share in a portion of the financial benefits of such projects.

Members of the Energy Advisory Committee include White, Tsosie, Raymond Benally, Stephen B. Etsitty, Martin Ashley, Akhtar Zaman, Albert Damon, Raymond Maxx, Mike Halona and Irma Roanhorse. Michele Henry is the administrator for the Energy Advisory Committee and Energy Office.

Deadline for comment originally was scheduled for July 15, but Morris said they are adding four town hall meetings and extending the comment period to the end of July. There is no deadline mentioned in the announcement from the Navajo Energy Office and no schedule posted on the new meetings. Comments may be sent to . The policy is available for download at .

6/28/2011 Washington Post International: Los Alamos nuclear lab to remain closed as New Mexico wildfire nears – BlogPost

The Washington Post International: Los Alamos nuclear lab to remain closed as New Mexico wildfire nears – BlogPost – Posted by Nikke Alex via Marley Shebala: Yeeyah!!!Glenn Walp, a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner and author of “Implosion at Los Alamos,” told ABC News that “potential is high for a major calamity if the fire would reach” the area where “approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste” are stored. (via Marley Shebala) As the Las Conchas wildfire continues to burn in New Mexico, officials from the Los Alamos National Laboratory say the radioactive and nuclear materials stored there are safe.

A small fire broke out Monday on the nuclear laboratory’s property near Technical Area 49, a site formerly used for radioactive explosives testing and now used for training purposes, but it was quickly contained, according to a U.S. Forest Service press release. “About one acre burned and the Lab has detected no off-site releases of contamination,” the release said. The lab will remain closed to all non-essential employees on Wednesday.

The wildfire has burned an estimated 49,000 acres of land south and west of the lab, according to the Forest Service. Los Alamos’s 12,000 residents are now under a mandatory evacuation order.

The lab will hold a press conference with public safety officials Tuesday afternoon. According to a press release, no fires burned on lab property Monday night and all hazardous materials are “accounted for and protected.”

Glenn Walp, a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner and author of “Implosion at Los Alamos,” told ABC News that “potential is high for a major calamity if the fire would reach” the area where “approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste” are stored.

Lab spokesman Steve Sandoval would not confirm that there were any such barrels on the property to the Associated Press, but he did say that “low-level waste is at times put in drums and regularly taken from the lab.”

“Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question other than to say that the material is well protected,” he said. “And the lab — knowing that it works with hazardous and nuclear materials — takes great pains to make sure it is protected and locked in concrete steel vaults. And the fire poses very little threat to them.”

The lab — where the first nuclear weapons were developed — has been posting dramatic pictures of the fire to its Flickr account.

6/27/2011 Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety: Los Alamos County declares state of emergency; orders mandatory evacuations

6/27/2011 Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety From: Karen Maute Subject: Action Alert: Los Alamos County declares state of emergency; orders mandatory evacuations : Good evening, Here’s what we know. 1. LANL is closed tomorrow. They say the Las Conchas fire is estimated to be 49,000 acres – more than the 47,000 acres burned by the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire. We are grateful for the excellent coverage of the fire by the KSFR News Team. You can hear them at 2. Los Alamos County has declared a state of emergency and ordered mandatory evacuations for the Los Alamos townsite, but not White Rock. There’s information about evacuation locations. The Big Rock Santa Claran Event Center [in Espanola] is open as a shelter for those who are voluntarily evacuating with no accommodations. Additional information is available at

3. People in surrounding communities should prepare to evacuate; gas up your vehicles now. Pregnant women and families with small children should take a precautionary step and evacuate now.

Our main concern is that the Las Conchas fire is about 3 1/2 miles from Area G, the dumpsite that has been in operation since the late 1950s/early 1960s. There are 20,000 to 30,000 55-gallons drums of plutonium contaminated waste (containing solvents, chemicals and toxic materials) sitting in fabric tents above ground. These drums are destined for WIPP.

4. To view the fire and Area G from satellite, go to the Nuclear Watch New Mexico blog to learn how to use Google Earth and the US Forest Service information to keep track of the fire.

You want to focus on the red square areas north of State Road 4 and the location of the Area G fabric tents which store the 20,000 to 30,000 drums of plutonium contaminated wastes – about 3 1/2 miles northeast of the red squares. You can see the four tents west of White Rock. They are also south of the green east-west line.

It appears the Google Earth updates the information about the fires across the U.S. by zooming out. Then you have to zoom back in to see if it has updated the Las Conchas fire.

5. We understand that LANL has been working since late last night to build a fire line in Water Canyon, between the fire and Area G.

It has moved 12 miles in 24 hours, about one-half mile per hour. [We made a mistake in earlier emails that it was moving two miles an hour; we’re all under and over stressed.]

6. Remember to take: From:
People and pets

Papers, phone numbers and important documents
Prescriptions, vitamins, and eyeglasses
Pictures and irreplaceable memorabilia
Personal computers (information on hard drives, memory and discs)
Plastic (credit cards, ATM cards) and cash

7. Please share this email with others. And yes, our home page has been hacked. It will probably work again following the end of the comment period for the proposed shiny, new bomb factory at LANL which comments are due tomorrow. If you would like to receive a fact sheet and sample comment letter, please reply and we’ll email them to you.

Pray the Water Canyon fire line will hold the progress of the fire.

Take care All,

To unsubscribe from this list, please reply to this email with Unsubscribe in the subject line.
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
107 Cienega Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Tel (505) 986-1973
Fax (505) 986-0997

6/27/2011 Christian Science Monitor: Missouri River soaks Nebraska nuclear plant, but it's no Fukushima

Missouri River soaks Nebraska nuclear plant, but it’s no Fukushima: Much of the grounds at Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska are under two feet of water from the rising Missouri River. By Pete Spotts, Staff writer: Flooding along the Missouri River has overspread much of one nuclear power plant’s boundaries, forcing it onto emergency generators, and threatens a second plant downstream. In both cases, regulators and operators say the plants appear to be in no danger of the kind of sequence of events – exacerbated by plant-design flaws – that led to the tsunami-spawned nuclear disaster in March at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The two plants, nestled along the Missouri River in Nebraska, “will be annoyed but not destroyed,” adds David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and nuclear-safety specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.

At the plant facing the biggest challenge, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, about 30 miles north of Omaha, the Missouri River is predicted to crest Wednesday at 33 feet above flood stage – some six feet below the level critical buildings at the plant were designed to handle. That flood crest would put the flood level roughly half an inch higher than it is currently.

Much of the plant’s grounds are under at least two feet of water. Through early Saturday morning, the reactor-containment building and its adjacent auxiliary buildings were high and dry, protected by a 2,000-foot-long water-filled berm. But workers operating heavy machinery ruptured the eight-foot-high berm, allowing water to lap at these structures as well. Some water has leaked into the turbine building, which houses no nuclear material.

With the emptying of the berm, the only dry patch remaining is the plant’s switch yard, which holds transformers and power lines that ship the plant’s electricity to the grid, but which also receive power to operate the plant.

The switch yard is surrounded by a concrete levee. But that barrier has sprung leaks, prompting plant operators to shift to diesel generators for onsite power. Workers are looking at ways to patch the leaks, as well as repair the berm.

Fort Calhoun has been off line since April for a scheduled refueling outage, and officials with the Omaha Public Power District, which owns the plant, say they won’t restart it until the flood has subsided.

If something untoward should happen, workers would have more leeway to deal with a problem because the plant is cooler than it would have been if it were online and because some of the most troubling radioactive byproducts in an accident have a quick decay time, says David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who tracks nuclear-safety issues for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.

The danger of flooded nuclear plants was thrown into stark relief in March, when an earthquake struck off northeastern Japan, sending a tsunami crashing into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The wave easily overtopped a seawall designed to keep tsunamis at bay. The tsunami swamped the plant’s emergency generators, which had been installed on the seaward side of the facility, and swept away above-ground storage tanks holding the fuel to run them.

Power from off site also had been cut off during the quake, leaving only batteries to run vital cooling pumps – and with no means of recharging them. Absent a way to keep the reactors and their spent fuel cool, three reactors experienced full core meltdowns, and fires and explosions at the site released significant amounts of radiation into the surrounding environment. Fukushima Daiichi is the second worst nuclear disaster in history, after the Chernobyl explosion and fire in 1986 in what is now Ukraine.

For the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, as well as theCooper Nuclear Station south of Omaha, the Missouri River flood has been a predictable, creeping menace, rather than an unpredictable, sudden one. As a result, operators have had time to augment and implement plans to deal with floodwaters.

Yet in Fort Calhoun’s case, if this year’s floods had occurred last year, the prognosis could have been worse.

Last October the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC) wrote up the plant for a “violation of substantial safety significant” related to its flood-control strategy.

Among the issues:
• The plant had stockpiled plenty of sandbags but not the sand to fill them.
• The Omaha Public Power District, which runs the plant, installed floodgates designed to keep floodwaters from overpowering the doors behind the gates. But the floodgates must be shored up on the outside – and topped – with sand bags. The support structures across the top of the gates weren’t strong enough to withstand the weight of sandbags that would be place on top of them.
• Perhaps most significantly, workers upgrading the plant’s cooling-water intake structure in the mid-1980s failed to seal old electrical conduits running through the structure’s front wall. The structure by design sits in the river along the bank to provide cooling water to the plant. NRC inspectors noted that the unplugged conduits were below the flood height specified for the rest of the plant’s critical buildings. Floodwaters jetting into the intake structure would have rendered useless pumps that are the plant’s last line of defense against a loss-of-coolant accident.

The upshot: The plant was at a 100 percent risk of partial core damage if a loss-of-coolant accident occurred during a flood only two feet higher than the level projected for the current flood, according to the NRC. The company, by contrast, put the risk at between 19 and 23.9 percent.

Since then, plant workers have fixed the conduit and sand-bag problems, and the company is trying to plug the organizational gaps that allowed the problems to go unnoticed and unsolved for nearly two decades.

That still leaves room for unexpected problems, such as workers punching holes in berms. The Fort Calhoun nuclear plant uses a single, pressurized-water reactor that delivers some 476 megawatts of power. It was commissioned in 1973. Eight years ago, the NRC granted the plant a license extension that will allow it to continue operating through 2033, instead of 2013.

The Cooper Nuclear Station is a single-reactor plant that uses technology similar to the reactors and containment buildings at Fukushima. The 810-megawatt plant plant went on-line in 1974, and, like Fort Calhoun, Cooper has received a license extension that will keep it running through 2034.

Cooper is running at full power for now, and remains dry because it sits on land that is a few feet above the river.

6/28/2011 Navajo Boy moves Congress and Mountains

Dear Forgotten Navajo People, Check out our latest Navajo video dispatch from Monument Valley. It shows the US EPA’s cleanup in full swing. Groundswell correspondent Mary Begay follows US EPA project manager Jason Musante behind the scenes. “”This example and this project show that someone in Congress learned of the problem here and said go do that,” Musante says. “Now what’s been a really good way to bring that message forward is the documentary Navajo Boy.” Groundswell continues to publicize the story through: Webisodes, shot on flip cameras by Navajo participants and edited by Groundswell — view the whole series at Generating media coverage for the issue (see headlines below) And creating opportunities to screen the film and for Navajos to tell their story. “>

In August, Mary Begay, who shot this webisode, and Jeff Spitz, producer of The Return of Navajo Boy will keynote The Tribal Lands Forum, a national conference for tribal environmental professionals. Their keynote will focus on cross-cultural media, advocacy and environmental justice. Check our website for a listing of other presentations or to book a screening of your own.

— Jeff & Jennifer
Groundswell Co-Founders

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6/21/2011 Gallup Independent: Off Limits Interior protects 1 million Grand Canyon acres

6/21/2011 Gallup Independent: Off Limits Interior protects 1 million Grand Canyon acres By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said Monday that he will make an emergency withdrawal for six months of approximately 1 million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon to protect it from new uranium mining claims while the Bureau of Land Management completes its study on a 20-year mineral withdrawal. Salazar made the announcement at the Mather Point Amphitheater in Grand Canyon National Park where he was joined by BLM Director Bob Abbey, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt. An order will be published in the Federal Register within the next week. A final Environmental Impact Statement that evaluates a preferred alternative of a 20-year mineral withdrawal on those same lands is expected to be released this fall. Salazar directed BLM to identify the full 1 million acre uranium withdrawal as the preferred alternative. But even if selected, it will not stop uranium mining in northern Arizona.

“Uranium, like oil and gas, solar, wind, geothermal, and other sources, remains a vital component of a responsible and comprehensive energy strategy. We will continue to develop uranium in northern Arizona, Wyoming and other places across the country,” he said.

There are possibly a number of valid existing rights in the proposed withdrawal area, according to Salazar, and he expects continued development of those claims and the establishment of new mines over the next 20 years.

“In fact, cautious development with strong oversight could help us answer critical questions about water quality and environmental impacts of uranium mining in the area. This science, derived from experience, would help others decide what actions are necessary to protect the Grand Canyon,” Salazar said.

The lands are within portions of the Grand Canyon watershed next to the park and contain vast archaeological resources and sites of spiritual and cultural importance to about a dozen American Indian tribes, among them Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, San Juan Southern Paiute, and White Mountain Apache. The Colorado River corridor also is the location of traditional collection areas for plants and minerals, as well as contemporary prayer and offering places, traditional cultural properties and sacred sites.

Uranium mining activities on lands adjacent to the park could result in environmental and watershed contamination, according to a report by the National Parks Conservation Association. Potentially harmful materials from past mining activities are still present in parts of the park.

“Our ancestors could not have known that one day the Grand Canyon would attract more than 4 million visitors a year. That hunting, fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation would generate an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity in this area. Or that millions of Americans living in cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles would rely on this river and this canyon for clean, healthy drinking water,” Salazar said.

“Like our ancestors, we do not know how future Americans will enjoy, experience, and benefit from this place. And that’s one of the many reasons why wisdom, caution, and science should guide our protection of the Grand Canyon. In this moment, we face a choice that could profoundly affect the Grand Canyon in ways we do not yet understand.”

Some of the lands near the Grand Canyon contain uranium resources that have helped meet America’s energy needs, he said. Over the last 20 years, eight uranium mines have operated in the area and one study has shown that an additional eight to 11 mines might be developed. “The question for us, though, is not whether to stop cautious and moderate uranium development, but whether to allow further expansion of uranium mining in the area,” Salazar said.

Monday’s announcement follows efforts by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., scientists, tribal and local government leaders, businesses and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens to secure protections for the region and its waters.

“This is a great day for the Grand Canyon, its wildlife and everyone in the Southwest who relies on the Colorado River for drinking water,” said Sandy Bahr, the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter director.

The emergency withdrawal, like the temporary segregation imposed by Salazar in July 2009, would prohibit the location of new hard rock mining claims under the 1872 Mining Law. However ongoing or future mining exploration or extraction operations on valid preexisting claims could continue. The temporary segregation expires July 20.

Roger Clark, Air & Energy program director for Grand Canyon Trust, applauded Salazar’s announcement, Grijalva’s commitment to the long-term protection of Grand Canyon’s watersheds through legislation, and Havasupai elders for their lifelong opposition to uranium mining within their historic homeland.

“The Grand Canyon Trust is honored to join First Americans, congressman Grijalva, and Secretary Salazar in protecting our region’s water from contamination by uranium mining. The secretary said that water is the Grand Canyon’s and our arid region’s ‘lifeblood.’ We wholeheartedly agree,” Clark said.

At the time of the temporary segregation, 10,600 hard rock mining claims existed. Today, approximately 3,500 claims remain. The emergency withdrawal will help maintain the status quo until a final decision is made.