Tag Archives: Co River

6/14/2012 Naabikiyati (Navajo Nation Council) Budget & Finance Committee meeting: Navajo Hopi Little CO River Water Rights Settlement

6/14/2012 Naabikiyati (Navajo Nation Council) Budget & Finance Committee Special Mtg Agenda“>6/14/2012 Naabikiyati (Navajo Nation Council) Budget & Finance Committee meeting to discuss new Business: Legislation No. 0230-12: An Action Relating to the Budget and Finance, Resources and Development and the Nabikiyati Committees; Approving the Proposed Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Settlement Agreement Sponsor: Johnny Naize, Speaker

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity: GRAND CANYON URANIUM MINING

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity: GRAND CANYON URANIUM MINING: Public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park contain some of the highest concentrations of uranium deposits in North America. Spikes in uranium prices in recent years have caused an explosion of new mining claims and exploration on those lands. Threats posed by exploration and the potential mining it portends — damage to wildlife and habitat, contamination of waters, and the industrialization of iconic landscapes — has prompted objections from conservation groups, native tribes, government officials and the public. It has spawned litigation spearheaded by the Center, as well as congressional action including legislation and a resolution on emergency mineral withdrawal. In February 2011, the Obama administration announced a draft plan to protect 1 million acres of the Grand Canyon watershed from new uranium mining.

SOUTH RIM LITIGATION

In March 2008, the Center filed suit against the Kaibab National Forest for approving a plan to conduct exploratory uranium drilling at 39 sites just south of Grand Canyon National Park, the first of five such projects slated for the area. Our challenge focused on the validity of the Forest Service’s use of a categorical exclusion from National Environmental Policy Act requirements in authorizing the plan. After a federal judge halted the project in April 2008, we settled the case in what attorneys considered a “complete victory,” compelling the Forest Service to produce a comprehensive environmental impact statement for which a study is now underway. The suit attracted national media attention and has anchored a broader campaign.

GRAND CANYON WATERSHEDS PROTECTION ACT

Soon after we filed our South Rim suit, and spurred by water-contamination concerns raised in the context of that suit, Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva introduced legislation to withdraw 1 million acres of public land in watersheds surrounding the Grand Canyon from mineral entry. The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act would invalidate all unproven claims, prevent the staking of new claims, and prohibit the exploration of unproven claims — thereby preventing the establishment of mining rights that are difficult to reverse. The Center was instrumental in helping to arrange a field hearing in which leaders from five tribes, scientists and the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park all testified about uranium’s deadly impacts and either implied or explicitly stated support for the bill.

CONGRESSIONAL WITHDRAWAL AND LITIGATION

To protect the canyon pending the passing of the Grand Canyon Watershed Protection Act, the House Natural Resources Committee in June of 2008 voted 20-2 to invoke a little-known provision of the Federal Land Management Policy Act requiring the interior secretary to enact a three-year emergency mineral withdrawal. The withdrawal affords the same protections from new uranium activity across the same acres set forth in Grijalva’s bill — but for a period of three years. In the fall of 2008, the Center challenged the Interior Department’s authorization of new uranium exploration in violation of the withdrawal.

PROPOSED MINING LIMITS AROUND THE GRAND CANYON

In 2009, the Obama administration enacted a two-year “segregation” — meaning, in this case, the prohibition of certain activities on a particular piece of land — that bars new mining claims and development of existing claims “for which valid rights have not been established” across 1 million acres of watershed around the Grand Canyon. The administration also initiated an environmental impact statement process to study extending that protection forward 20 years through the enactment of what’s called a “mineral withdrawal.” Together, these actions will go far toward preventing new uranium mines that would threaten the Grand Canyon and its springs, and they place a heavier legal burden on attempts by the uranium industry to reopen old mines. In 2011, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar extended protections for the canyon until the end of 2011.

But the Obama administration’s direction hasn’t stopped the Bureau of Land Management from allowing old mines to reopen illegally without updating antiquated environmental reviews. In 2009, the Center sued the Bureau for failing to undertake new environmental reviews for the Arizona 1 mine — which hadn’t been done since 1988 — seeking to halt the mine, and early the next year we sued the Bureau for refusing to disclose records relating to the Arizona 1 mine and other area uranium mines. When a court denied our request to halt Arizona 1, we appealed that ruling in summer 2010 — and we’ll continue to engage the Bureau in the National Environmental Policy Act review process and in the courts to ensure that maximum protections are enacted for the entire Grand Canyon.

7/28/2011 News Hawk: Southern California Water Leaders Challenged To Help Create a Groundwater Storage Plan

Southern California Water Leaders Challenged To Help Create a Groundwater Storage Plan By Mike Adams on Jul 28 2011 “We want to know what you want so the plan is done in the best interests of the end user, the water consumer.” Those were the words of Central Basin Municipal Water District General Manager Art Aguilar to a packed room of water industry, community and city leaders about the Central Basin Groundwater Storage Plan that Central Basin is preparing this year. The plan will address the ecological and financial impact of managing the groundwater basin that extends approximately 270 square miles within the Los Angeles coastal plain and is the primary source of water for more than 2.5 million residents in the region.

In Southern California, water management is a huge issue. About half of the water comes from the area and is stored underground. The rest is imported from the Colorado River and Northern California or is recycled water that is used for specific uses, like irrigating golf courses. Protecting the vital public resource of water is a very important responsibility and it’s a responsibility that Central Basin says is theirs.

“We have a statutory right and a civic obligation to create this plan with input from all our partners. We have been emphatic in saying give us the input and we’ll develop the plan from that input,” Aguilar stated.

Many questions from the audience were about specific elements of the plan, and Central Basin officials repeated Aguilar’s theme. The specific elements need to be developed with the stakeholders, including those attending today’s meeting.

“We will continue to have these meetings out in the public where everyone can participate. We have seen the negative effectives of what backroom deals and secrecy can do to a process like this, and we are absolutely committed to keeping this process transparent,” Aguilar told Newshawks Review after the meeting.

The meeting today was scheduled after Central Basin filed what is called a Notice of Preparation for a Program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) about the Groundwater Management plan. The NOP has been revised to include a longer project description; a change that Central Basin staff says was made in response to stakeholder feedback received in February. Central Basin’s plan is the first of its kind that will have an EIR of the Central Groundwater Basin, and as such will be the first plan to have an environmental analysis the basin.

The management of groundwater storage is a critical element in assuring that there is a future reliability of drinkable water to the 2.5 million residents Central Basin serves.

The Plan’s objectives are to protect the supply, maximize storage within the Basin, to protect local decision-making authority and local water rights as well as improving the reliability of supply during drought or emergencies.

One audience member asked why Central Basin was preparing a plan and the Southern California Water Replenishment District had already submitted a plan, which was rejected in Los Angeles courts.

Aguilar repeated that Central Basin has the statutory authority to create a storage plan and manage groundwater, and that it intends to do just that.

The current public comment period for the Program Environmental Impact Report will last until August 20th. Central Basin then said it will publish the draft report which will be reviewed by the public for 45 days and will include public meetings as part of that review process.

Central Basin said it expects the final report will be ready by December at which time it will hold public hearing with an anticipated approval of the Plan set for the first quarter of 2012.

“We have been and will continue to conduct an inclusive process where all of our stakeholders will be able to participate. The only way that the process will not be inclusive is if people choose not to participate,” Aguilar told the group.

Central Basin Water Resources Manager David Hill, who moderated today’s meeting, reminded the water managers and city officials of the importance of creating a plan that works for the residents of the region.

“To keep our region economically viable we have to do an even better job of conserving and having access to water. The Groundwater Storage Plan will address those issues in a very important and comprehensive way,” he said.

7/26/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo looks to Utah on water settlement

7/26/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo looks to Utah on water settlement By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation is moving ahead on settling its water rights claims in the Upper Basin of Utah with or without the federal government’s participation, according to Stanley Pollack, assistant attorney general. During a recent presentation to the Nabiki’yati’ Committee, Pollack said Navajo has had very favorable discussions with the state of Utah, and currently is in the process of finalizing proposed legislation to introduce to Congress so it can approve the settlement and authorize the various drinking water projects associated with it.

“We do not have any federal participation in those discussions. We have asked repeatedly for the federal government to be involved,” Pollack said. “The federal government’s attitude is ‘We are doing all we can for the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona,’ so they’ve given short shrift to Utah. We are not deterred by that. We plan to move forward with or without the United States at this point.”

The Navajo Nation’s settlement of its claims to the San Juan River Basin, agreed to in 2005, is before the decree court in Aztec, which must rule by the end of 2013. The $1 billion settlement includes the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

The Nation also approved the $800 million Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement last November, which included three water projects for Navajo, but that settlement was deemed too expensive and has since been revised. The new plan is now being reviewed by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, and the Department of the Interior and could require further modification.

The Utah settlement would recognize a right for the Navajo Nation to deplete up to 81,500 acre-feet per year from the Upper Basin. “The Upper Basin in Utah includes all water supplies that the Navajo Nation has access to in Utah – Lake Powell, San Juan River, groundwater, etcetera,” Pollack said.

The settlement would recognize the right of the Navajo Nation to divert and store a maximum of 435 cubic feet per second, “so the upper theoretical limit for the water right is potentially as much as 314,851 acre-feet per year.”

Pollack said that when they know they have a settlement the Utah congressional delegation is willing to push through Congress, they will come back to Council and ask for approval of the terms.

Norman K. Johnson, who Pollack said is basically his counterpart in Utah, stated in March at a Utah Water Users Workshop that the state is close to an agreement with the Ute Tribe and is working with the Navajo Nation. Both settlements involve water from the Colorado River, and the settlement with Navajo calls for $156 million in projects.

One challenge for the Colorado River portion is “fish flows.” The Colorado River Basin is home to four endangered fish: the humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and bonytail chub. Johnson stated that Upper Basin states have chosen to be proactive and have implemented a recovery plan for Colorado River endangered species.

That plan gives Utah and three other states an opportunity to be full partners in recovery implementation and also means Utah could continue to develop its resources while recovery efforts proceed.

Adequate stream flow is critical to recovery of the endangered species, and the recovery plan seeks a balance between the needs of fish and water users, Johnson said. Noncompliance with the plan means both existing and future diversions may be in question and could be prohibited.

Given use projections, the “pinch point” for flow is Reach 3 on the Green River. While flow is generally sufficient, Johnson said that if the Lake Powell Pipeline water right is exercised as a Flaming Gorge storage right with a point of re-diversion at Lake Powell, then flows would be protective through Reach 3. However, it might require a “limited” modification to existing in-stream law.

Utah-based Blue Castle Holdings has proposed to build a two-unit nuclear power plant in Green River, Utah. The state water engineer at the Division of Water Rights is currently reviewing applications to allow the transfer of water rights for 29,600 acre feet of water per year from Kane County and 24,000 acre feet per year from San Juan County to Emery County, the location of the proposed plant.

The counties would lease their water rights to Blue Castle and use the funds to develop small surface water projects in their water conservancy districts, according to Grand Canyon Trust, which has joined HEAL Utah and other conservation organizations to voice concern to the state’s water engineer over the transfer of water rights to facilitate construction of the nuclear plant. Approximately 48 million gallons of water per day would be extracted from the river to cool the plant.

In 2009, Blue Castle signed a memorandum of understanding with Page Electric Utility, outlining the utility’s potential participation as an equity owner. The utility provides retail electricity services in Page and the surrounding area.

7/26/2011 Lawsuit Prompts Full Environmental Review of Uranium Mining Threatening Dolores, San Miguel Rivers in Colorado Feds Still Refuse to Revoke Leases Awarded Under Flawed Analysis

7/26/2011 Center for Native Ecosystems and Center for Biological Diversity: “Lawsuit Prompts Full Environmental Review of Uranium Mining Threatening Dolores, San Miguel Rivers in Colorado: Feds Still Refuse to Revoke Leases Awarded Under Flawed Analysis”: Contacts: Josh Pollock, Center for Native Ecosystems, (303) 546-0214 x 2 and Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713 and Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance, (970) 728-3729: DURANGO, Colo.— In response to a lawsuit from conservation groups, the Department of Energy has finally agreed to conduct a full, in-depth analysis of the environmental impacts of uranium mining and milling in southwestern Colorado. The environmental impact statement will examine the effects of DOE’s uranium-leasing program on 42 square miles of public land near the Dolores and San Miguel rivers.

In a lawsuit that’s still pending, the conservation groups challenged the Department’s current leasing program for not complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act. Although DOE now concedes the need for a new and expanded environmental review, the Department continues to implement the program under the original flawed approval. In fact, it has awarded or renewed 31 leases for mining-related activities on 25,000 acres.

“The Department of Energy knows its previous environmental reviews fell short and yet leasing for uranium operations has moved forward. That badly flawed approach jeopardizes human health, wildlife and two of the West’s most precious rivers,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The feds’ refusal to revoke approvals and leases they’ve admitted are flawed is inherently dishonest and will keep everyone in court.”

Uranium mining and milling resulting from the lease program will deplete Colorado River basin water and threaten to pollute rivers with uranium, selenium, ammonia, arsenic, molybdenum, aluminum, barium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, vanadium and zinc. Selenium and arsenic contamination in the Colorado River basin from abandoned uranium-mining operations have been implicated in the decline of four endangered Colorado River fish species and may be impeding their recovery.

“Even small amounts of some of these pollutants, like selenium, can poison fish, accumulate in the food chain and cause deformities and reproductive problems for endangered fish, ducks, river otters and eagles,” said Josh Pollock of the Center for Native Ecosystems. “It is irresponsible for the Department of Energy to put fish and wildlife at risk by allowing uranium leases without adequate analysis of necessary protections to prevent pollution.”

“Combined with the activities in the DOE leasing tracts, the impacts of new mining on unpatented claims in the area and the proposed Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill in Paradox Valley all add up to serious new concerns for water quality,” said Hilary White of the Sheep Mountain Alliance. “We have to understand and mitigate existing contamination problems in the area before the government allows new mining to ramp up.”

The Colorado Environmental Coalition, Information Network for Responsible Mining, Center for Native Ecosystems, Center for Biological Diversity and Sheep Mountain Alliance sued the Department of Energy and Bureau of Land Management in July 2008 for approving the program without analyzing the full environmental impacts from individual uranium-mining leases and for failing to ensure protection of threatened and endangered species prior to authorizing the program. The groups are represented by attorneys Travis Stills of the Energy Minerals Law Center and Jeff Parsons at the Western Mining Action Project.

DOE will take public comment on its new environmental impact statement until Sept. 9. Comments will also be accepted at public meetings Aug. 8-11 in Telluride, Naturita, San Juan County, Utah, and Montrose.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2011/uranium-mining-07-26-2011.html

7/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Western Navajo Pipeline dropped from water rights talks

7/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Western Navajo Pipeline dropped from water rights talks By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – If the Navajo Nation wants the Western Navajo Pipeline it’s going to have to build it, at least as the situation now stands. The project is no longer part of the proposed Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement. Stanley Pollack, Navajo water rights attorney, and the Navajo Water Rights Commission gave the Nabiki’yati’ Committee an update Tuesday evening on water rights settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, as well as near-miss litigation with the city of Flagstaff over water drilling on the city’s Red Gap Ranch. Pollack said he informed the Navajo Nation Council in May that the proposed Northeastern Arizona settlement approved last November by the 21st Council was no longer under consideration because Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who heads the Arizona congressional delegation, didn’t think the settlement could get through the current Congress.

On March 23, Kyl advised the settlement parties to come up with a proposal that did not include the costly Western Navajo Pipeline, which would bring “liquid gold” to water-starved portions of the Nation in Western Navajo Agency.

“I immediately told the senator that without the Western Navajo Pipeline that the Navajo Nation was not willing to engage in any discussions concerning settlement of its Colorado River water rights. So we basically took the Colorado River issues off the table once Congress took the Western Navajo Pipeline off the table,” Pollack said.

Lack of support for the Western Navajo project was not unanticipated, however, and as a result, “we have been involved in trying to wrap up a settlement of just the Little Colorado River and not the Colorado River,” he said. Hopi stood to gain nothing out of the Little Colorado River settlement because there were no projects for the Hopis involved, so they were not part of the deal, he added.

Kyl set a June 3 deadline for the parties to put together a settlement he could introduce this month in Congress. On June 3, attorneys for parties to the settlement discussions entered into an agreement “basically agreeing to what we would call a Little Colorado River settlement,” Pollack said. That settlement was forwarded to Kyl’s office and the Department of the Interior, where it is now under review.

“If we get to the point that there is a settlement that the administration and Congress believe has legs, can move forward, has some chance of being approved by the next Congress, at that point in time we will come back and give you more details on the settlement and ask for your approval,” he said.

“But we don’t think there’s any point of going through another process of approving a settlement that we just simply don’t have the go-ahead from either the congressional delegation or the administration to move forward in Congress.”

Delegate Leonard Tsosie said what bothers him is that Kyl is calling the shots. “I don’t think that the agreement that the Council approved should be characterized as a non-valid consideration.” He asked the Water Rights Commission to convene at least one meeting to explain to the Navajo people the status of the Western pipeline. “I think if this is no longer a valid consideration, then we need to be honest with the people and tell them that – in Navajo language.”

He also suggested the Commission begin talking with the Obama administration to try to promote the pipeline.

“Sen. Kyl is going to be gone in less than a year. So be it. Let him go to whatever burned-out place near Walla where I suppose he has a cabin. But for the Navajo people, life goes on. We still need water, with or without Sen. Kyl. … Not showing sympathy for basic human need, to just kind of turn a blind eye to that really bothers me to. I would like to think that he has a heart.”

Tsosie said Hopi also got off without approving the lease. “Many of the Navajo persons were praising them for doing that while the rest of us were getting close to having our effigies burned. Hopi has made off clean here. … I think in the future this Council ought to consider whether we truly need Hopi approval or not. I’ve always said to put the spigot at the borderline and let them develop their own water line if they so care to do so.”

Lorenzo Curley took issue with the “sacred cow” portion of the negotiations – the Colorado River and Navajo Generating Station.

“As we all know, Navajo Generating Station supplies 90 percent of the water to Phoenix and Tucson area, and they need this. That’s why they’re ensuring that the generating station is considered part of this agreement. We’re allowing that sacred cow to be part of this agreement. Why don’t we just take it off the table? They’ve done that with the Colorado River and the Western pipeline. They’ve taken our sacred cow off; let’s take theirs off,” he said.

Alton Shepherd said Curley brought forth a good analysis of the process. “I did have my reservations on what was being agreed,” he said.

Katherine Benally told the committee that as much as they don’t like what has transpired, they can’t blame Pollack and the Water Rights Commission. “It’s a decision Sen. Kyl made. … That was his position and it’s sort of the position in Washington, D.C., right now due to the deficit or the money crunch everybody is in. So, what’s the solution?

“Every time we negotiate something, we sacrifice. Maybe land, maybe water, maybe a little bit of our sovereignty, maybe our water rights. But if we put our money where our mouth is, we don’t sacrifice anything.”

Benally said the main cost is to bring the water up from the canyon at Lees Ferry. She referred to some Oriental investors who recently visited Navajo. “’Let us build it for you,’ they said. I would ask the Water Rights Commission to take a look at that. At least sit down with them and have a dialog and report back. See what transpires.”

Pollack said there appeared to be a couple common themes of frustration and perhaps even anger over what has happened with the Western pipeline. “There is no question that the Navajo people in the Western Agency need water. Once you are west of the Echo Cliffs, there is no groundwater, there is no surface water. That is why the Western Navajo Pipeline has always been the backbone of any Colorado River discussions that we have had.”

But there is really no point in pushing the pipeline in its current form, he said. “There’s no place to go with it. The Obama administration does not support it. Congress doesn’t support it. Look, these people are talking about cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, health benefits for the American people. They’re trying to cut back. They’re trying not to spend more money.”

Meanwhile, the Nation’s Water Management Branch is building the Western Navajo Pipeline “one piece at a time,” Pollack said. Navajo technical staff is working with Indian Health Service and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to get drinking water to the people in Western Navajo.

“There is a small pipeline in the ground that goes almost all the way to Cameron. There is about a six mile gap that we have not been able to get funding for,” he said, because it doesn’t meet the criteria. Approximately $986,000 is needed.

“One of the things that we would like the Council to consider is pitching in and helping to finish that pipeline.” Once it is completed, he said, “you will actually have a small version of the Western Navajo Pipeline.”

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”.

http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.usbr.gov%2Flc%2Fregion%2Fprograms%2Fcrbstudy.html&h=ef2be

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.

Information: http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/crbstudy.html

5/5/2011 Public News Service: Arizonans Call for Canyon Mining Moratorium

Public News Service: Arizonans Call for Canyon Mining Moratorium PHOENIX, Ariz. – Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including 36 Arizona groups, have weighed in to support a federal proposal for a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on 1 million acres near Grand Canyon National Park. A public comment period has just ended. The Obama administration is expected to decide the issue in the next few weeks. Lynn Hamilton is the executive director of Grand Canyon River Guides, a nonprofit group of professional river guides and individuals who love the Grand Canyon. She warns that runoff from existing uranium mines has already polluted several rivers, creeks and springs within the national park. “It’s really alarming for people to feel like the areas that they’re visiting and recreating in, which they consider to be wilderness areas, are tainted in this way.”

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and 62 other members of Congress have sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging him to approve the proposed 20-year moratorium. Several local governments and Native American tribal governments have also endorsed the proposed mining ban. The industry maintains that modern mining techniques prevent environmental damage.

Hamilton says Native Americans living in northern Arizona have been especially hard-hit by water pollution resulting from uranium mining.

“It’s really a deadly history. Many Native Americans have died from drinking tainted water or from using that water to sustain their livestock and crops when it’s contaminated.”

Hamilton also expresses concern about the potential effect on tourism from uranium mining claims that are “right on the doorstep” of the Grand Canyon.

“This is an area that draws 5 million visitors each year. It contributes almost $700 million annually to the regional economy.”

Grand Canyon tourism supports some 12,000 full-time jobs, she adds.