Category Archives: Colorado River

4/27/2012 Media Release: Forgotten People go to United Nations to secure human right to housing and water

4 27 2012 FP Media Release Right to Water and Housing“>

4/27/2012 Statement of Glenna Begay to Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, OHCHR

4 24 2012_Glenna Begay_Speaker FP_Land & Resources Speaker_to Special Rapporteur James Anaya“>

4/27/2012 Statement of Norris Nez, Hathalie (Medicine Man) to Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, OHCHR

4 24 2012_Norris Nez_Medicine Man_Land & Mr James Anaya“>

4/27/2012 Statement of Marlene Benally to Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, OHCHR

4 24 2012_Marlene Benally_Speaker FP_Land & Resources_to Special Rapporteur James Anaya

4/27/2012 Statement of Mary Lane to Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, OHCHR

4 24 2012_Mary Lane_Speaker FP Open Forum_to_Special Rapporteur James Anaya“>

Scripps Institution of Oceanography: Climate Change Means Shortfalls in Colorado River Water Deliveries

EMBARGOED BY PNAS: FOR RELEASE ON Monday, April 20, 2009 02:00 PM PDT: Climate Change Means Shortfalls in Colorado River Water Deliveries:  Scripps researchers find that currently scheduled water deliveries from the Colorado River are unlikely to be met if human-caused climate change reduces run1off in the region. The Colorado River system supplies water to tens of millions of people and millions of acres of farmland, and has never experienced a delivery shortage. But if human-caused climate change continues to make the region drier, scheduled deliveries will be missed 60-90 percent of the time by the middle of this century, according to a pair of climate researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

“All water-use planning is based on the idea that the next 100 years will be like the last 100,” said Scripps research marine physicist Tim Barnett, a co-author of the report. “We considered the question: Can the river deliver water at the levels currently scheduled if the climate changes as we expect it to. The answer is no.”

Even under conservative climate change scenarios, Barnett and Scripps climate researcher David Pierce found that reductions in the runoff that feeds the Colorado River mean that it could short the Southwest of a half-billion cubic meters (400,000 acre feet) of water per year 40 percent of the time by 2025. (An acre foot of water is typically considered adequate to meet the annual water needs of two households.) By the later part of this century, those numbers double.

The paper, “Sustainable water deliveries from the Colorado River in a changing climate,” appears in the April 20 edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The analysis follows a 2008 study in which Barnett and Pierce found that Lake Mead, the reservoir on the Colorado River created by Hoover Dam, stood a 50-percent chance of going dry in the next 20 years if the climate changed and no effort was made to preserve a minimum amount of water in the reservoir. The new study assumes instead that enough water would be retained in the reservoir to supply the city of Las Vegas, and examines what delivery cuts would be required to maintain that level.

“People have talked for at least 30 years about the Colorado being oversubscribed but no one ever put a date on it or an amount. That’s what we’ve done,” said Barnett. “Without numbers like this, it’s pretty hard for resource managers to know what to do.”

Barnett and Pierce also point out that lakes Mead and Powell were built during and calibrated to the 20th century, which was one of the wettest in the last 1,200 years. Tree ring records show that typical Colorado River flows are substantially lower, yet 20th Century values are used in most long-term planning of the River. If the Colorado River flow reverts to its long-term average indicated by the tree rings, then currently scheduled water deliveries are even less sustainable.

Barnett and Pierce show that the biggest effects of human-induced climate change will probably be seen during dry, low-delivery years. In most years, delivery shortfalls will be small enough to be manageable through conservation and water transfers, they estimate. But during dry years there is an increasing chance of substantial shortages.

“Fortunately, we can avoid such big shortfalls if the river’s users agree on a way to reduce their average water use,” said Pierce. “If we could do that, the system could stay sustainable further into the future than we estimate currently, even if the climate changes.”

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4/4/2012 New York Times Green Blog: Uranium, Cattle Grazing and Risks Unknown

April 4, 2012, 3:40 pm Uranium, Cattle Grazing and Risks Unknown By LESLIE MACMILLAN Joshua Lott for The New York TimesA cattle ranch near an abandoned uranium mine in Cameron, Ariz.  As I reported last weekend in The Times, a cattle rancher stumbled upon an abandoned uranium mine in the summer of 2010 on his grazing land, about 60 miles east of the Grand Canyon on the Navajo reservation, and notified federal officials. They came in with Geiger counters and found levels of radioactivity that were alarmingly high.  A year and a half later, the former mine in Cameron, Ariz., is not fenced off to either humans or animals, and cattle continue to roam through the site and eat grass that might be tainted with uranium and other toxic substances.

“Those cattle go to auction in Sun Valley and are sold on the open market,” said Ronald Tohannie, a project manager with the Navajo advocacy group Forgotten People. “Then people eat the meat.”

The owner of Valley Livestock Auction in Sun Valley, Ariz., Derrek Wagoner, confirmed that he buys cattle from the Navajo reservation and is aware that cattle graze on uranium mines there. He added that cattle come to him from all over the Southwest, where there are plenty of former uranium mines.

There is no dispute that beef and milk from those cattle make their way into the food chain. What is not precisely known is how much radioactive material plants absorb through the soil, how much the cattle ingest by grazing on the plants and what the effect might be on humans.

Livestock grazing around the abandoned mines is common throughout the Southwest, according to many environmentalists, scientists, government officials and people in the cattle business. The Colorado Plateau is particularly rich in minerals and in the former mines, which for 40 years supplied crucial materials for the nation’s cold-war nuclear weapons program.

But the effect of the radioactivity on the food chain remains an open question. “There’s just not a lot of data,” said Chris Shuey, an environmental health specialist with the Southwest Research and Information Center. “That’s because mining ended 25 years ago, and the studies ended then, too.”

Yet a resurgence in corporate interest in mining uranium has brought a new wave of studies. In a 2010 report, the Department of the Interior said that proposals for uranium mining at sites adjacent to the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona had prompted the agency “to investigate physical, chemical, and biological issues potentially affected by mining.”

In January, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a 20-year moratorium on new uranium and other hard-rock mining claims on a million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon, saying it was needed to preserve the mile-deep canyon and the river that runs through it. The mining industry is challenging that decision in court.

The Interior report summarizes the available findings, saying that although conclusive data is lacking, studies have indicated that toxic substances like uranium and its decay products — including radium and radon — “can affect the survival, growth, and reproduction of plants and animals.” It cited reptiles, birds and “mammalian wildlife that represent essential components of the food web.”

David Shafer, a manager in Colorado for the Department of Energy, one of several federal agencies involved in cleaning up the legacy of cold-war uranium mining on the Navajo reservation, said the Department of Energy was studying how much uranium is absorbed by plants but that its research remained incomplete. “We don’t know what the uptake is,” he said.

“Milk is very stringently tested,” possibly because it is a staple of children’s diets, Mr. Shafer said. “Beef is less so.”

After cattle are auctioned off, they go to various processing facilities where they are butchered and tested for contaminants under U.S.D.A. standards, Mr. Wagoner of the livestock auction company said.

However, federal standards do not include routine screening for toxic chemicals like uranium and its decay products. Standard testing includes biological contaminants like E. coli and salmonella and physical substances like bits of metal that might fall inside a meat grinder. But beef is only spot-checked for chemical contaminants, said Janet McGinn, a senior officer with the U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

When an animal is spot-checked for such substances, it is either because it was chosen as part of a random sampling of the entire population or because it is suspected to be ill.

The lack of data makes some experts uneasy. “We still can’t answer fundamental questions — are there wide population health effects due to uranium mining?” said Mr. Shuey, the environmental health specialist.

“Immune function, kidney disease, high blood pressure — all these things contribute to the burden of ill health” and could be affected by uranium, he said, “but we don’t know for sure.”

“Now there are companies that want to mine uranium again,” he said, “and we’re still a couple of generations away from dealing with the totality of that legacy.”

“We still can’t answer fundamental questions — are there wide population health effects due to uranium mining?”

Chris Shuey,
Southwest Research
and Information Center

For people who make a living off the land, tainted cattle is a topic of endless speculation. “They get it in multiple pathways,” said Larry Gordy, the rancher who found the mine on his property and alerted federal officials two years ago. “Cattle eat plants covered with radioactive dust, they breathe in radon, and they drink contaminated water.”

In the arid Southwestern region, water is a precious commodity, and it is collected through various systems throughout the Navajo reservation. Dan Canyon, a former rancher, said that irrigation dams collect water from runoff and some of it comes from former uranium mines, where it can be contaminated by ore tailings.

Standing atop one such dam in Cameron, Ariz., a slope of earth dotted by sagebrush and scored by rivets, Mr. Canyon gestured toward the former mine directly above it. For years, his cattle grazed here.

“I sold my cattle,” he said. “I didn’t want to be responsible for contaminated meat on the market.”

Joshua Lott for The New York TimesLarry Gordy, a Navajo rancher, near the abandoned uranium mine he found on his property in Cameron, Ariz.  Federal officials measured high levels of radioactivity there.

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex By FELICIA FONSECA: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to make a decision on whether to mandate pollution controls for a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo reservation next spring.But with so many competing interests, regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld in the EPA’s San Francisco office admits the agency won’t satisfy them all, and the differences likely will have to be ironed out in court. “To say it’s complex would be an understatement,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page ensures water and power demands are met in major metropolitan areas and contributes significantly to the economies of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Conservationists see it as a health and environmental hazard.

Blumenfeld said the EPA ultimately must decide what technology would best protect the air around the Grand Canyon and other pristine areas as part of its regional haze rule. Whether that means low nitrogen oxide burners already installed at the plant, more expensive scrubbers or something else won’t be disclosed until next year. The plant’s owners would have five years to comply once a final rule is issued.

“It is likely we will be scrutinized, so we are sticklers for following the rules,” he said.

The Navajo Generating Station is just one of three coal-fired power plants in the region that directly or indirectly affects the Navajo Nation. The EPA already has proposed pollution controls for the Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico, which are in clear view of one another. The latter is overseen by another EPA region.

The Department of Interior is conducting a study with a draft due out this month on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station that will show just how vast the interests are in the plant that began producing electricity in 1974. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is the majority owner of the plant. It is run by the Salt River Project and fed by coal from Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine.

The regional haze rule allows the EPA to look at factors other than air quality and cost effectiveness in determining regulations for power plants. Navajo Generating Station provides energy to deliver water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix through a series of canals and fulfills water rights settlements reached with American Indian tribes.

Blumenfeld said the agency needs specific information on what tribes, like the Gila River Indian Community, would expect to pay for water if that power no longer was available, or the figures from the Navajo and Hopi tribes on revenue losses should the power plant cease operation. SRP has said it could be forced to shutter the plant if it doesn’t secure lease agreements or it cannot afford more the expensive pollution controls.

“Until we have the detailed information about what those impacts are, we can’t do very much with that,” Blumenfeld said.

His office also has been criticized by some Republican members of Congress for what they say are unnecessary regulations that are hurting local economies. Blumenfeld said while critics believe states can take over the EPA’s duties, his agency ensures consistency across the board.

“Ultimately it’s an example of common-sense standards of helping the American public have a healthy life,” he said. “We recognize that we also need energy, but I think they are not in conflict.”

Andy Bessler

Southwest Organizing Representative
Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to Clean Energy & Community Partnerships
www.sierraclub.org/ej/partnerships/tribal
www.sierraclub.org/coal
andy.bessler@sierrraclub.org
P.O. Box 38 Flagstaff, AZ 86002
928-774-6103 voice
928-774-6138 fax
928-380-7808 cell

11/10/2011 Blog posting by Robert Sabie, Jr. FP uranium proximity map winner EPA apps for the environment challenge

11/10/2011 Blog Posting by Robert Sabie, Jr.: First off, I want to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with The Forgotten People. I was introduced to Marsha Monestersky, Program Director of Forgotten People during a phone conference back in January of 2011 by my professor, Troy Abel, whom Marsha had met at an EPA environmental justice forum in Washington D.C. That was my first time of hearing of the many issues that the Navajo people faced, especially in the Tuba City/Cameron area. I felt moved by the stories that Marsha told me.

In June of 2011, Dr. Abel and I made a short trip to the Navajo Nation. Like no other place I have visited, the landscape of the Navajo Nation is both unique and beautiful. We were invited to meet several families and appreciated being welcome into their homes. This was also my first experience eating fry bread which I found delicious, although my stomach didn’t know quite what to think about it. We met Ronald Tohannie, who has been a leader in using a GPS unit in mapping various items around the area. Ronald gave us a tour of the water hauling routes and delivery points. We also were able to attend one of the water deliveries and witness how difficult obtaining safe drinking water was for many families. On our last evening in the area we attended a community planning meeting at James Peshlakai’s home in Cameron. I could tell that James was a great teacher by his ability to illustrate his points by means of story telling. Meeting some of the families was the most important aspect of taking on this project.

After completing the project, Dr. Abel suggested at the last minute that I enter my map in an EPA contest. I had no idea that this project would take me to Washington D.C. This past week Dr. Abel and I spent two days at the Apps for the Environment forum in Washington D.C. The morning that we left D.C. I was honored by being given the opportunity to speak in front of several important people from the EPA. They wanted me to speak about the technology of the online map. Although I highlighted some of the features of the online map, I chose to focus on telling a story. I told the story of Marsha and Don Yellowman meeting Dr. Abel at the environmental justice forum. I spoke of our trip to Cameron and meeting people without access to safe drinking water. I told them that they cannot solve problems with technology in offices in Washington D.C. I told them that in order for technology to help solve problems, they need to empower communities with the knowledge and ability to use that technology.

Moving forward, I think that this project may provide momentum for The Forgotten People. Being an outsider, I realize that I only have a basic understanding of what the Navajo people need. My suggestion is that The Forgotten People use my project as a stepping stone to ask more specific questions. When Marsha met Dr. Abel at the environmental justice conference she asked, “Who can help us with mapping?” That question has been answered. The next questions could be how can this map help your community and what would make the map more useful?

The other night I sent an email to Marsha and in that email I told her that “although I am being recognized for my mapping abilities, the greatest reward is knowing that more awareness is being raised about the issues faced by the communities of the Navajo Nation and that the people are not forgotten.” Thank you again and I look forward to continuing to contribute in your fight for environmental justice.

Sincerely,
Robert Sabie, Jr.

11/8/2011 FP congratulates Robert Sabie, WWU – EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge

Forgotten People congratulates Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University.  11/8/2011 EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its Apps for the Environment challenge, which encouraged new and innovative uses of EPA’s data to create apps that address environmental and public health issues.  Developers from across the country created apps with information about everything from energy efficient light bulbs to local air quality. A few even developed games to help people learn environmental facts.

“Innovators from across the country have used information to help people protect our health and the environment,” said Malcolm Jackson, EPA’s Chief Information Officer. “The winners of the Apps for the Environment challenge demonstrate that it’s possible to transform data from EPA and elsewhere into applications that people can use.”

The five winners are:

·      Winner, Best Overall App: Light Bulb Finder by Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of EcoHatchery, Milwaukee, Wis.

  • Runner Up, Best Overall App: Hootroot by Matthew Kling of Brighter Planet, Shelburne, Vt.
  • Winner, Best Student App: EarthFriend by Ali Hasan and Will Fry of Differential Apps and Fry Development Company, Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, N.C. and J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C.
  • Runner Up, Best Student App: Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.
  • Popular Choice Award: CG Search by Suresh Ganesan of Cognizant Technology Solutions, South Plainfield, N.J.

Winners will demonstrate their submissions at the Apps for the Environment forum today in Arlington, Va. The forum will include panels on business, technology, and government initiatives, breakout sessions by EPA’s program offices, upcoming developer challenges and future directions about environmental applications.

All contestants will retain intellectual property rights over their submissions, though winners agree that their submissions will be available on the EPA website for free use and download by the public for a period of one year following the announcement of the winners.

More information about the winners and other submissions: http://appsfortheenvironment.challenge.gov/submissions

More information about EPA’s Apps for the Environment forum: http://www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.html

CONTACT:

Latisha Petteway (News Media Only)

petteway.latisha@epa.gov

202-564-3191

202-564-4355


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