Tag Archives: Hopi Tribe

4/3/2012 Blog posting by Wenona Benally Baldenegro: Senators Seek to Extinguish Navajo & Hopi Water Rights

Senators Seek to Extinguish Navajo & Hopi Water Rights by Wenona Benally Baldenegro, April 3, 2012 at 9:53pm. S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually – without any compensation – and to force the extension of Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development. This is coercive and wrong

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
P.O. Box 38 Flagstaff, AZ 86002
928-774-6103 voice
928-774-6138 fax
928-380-7808 cell

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times. WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission reports that it has nearly $4 million available to start helping Navajo families in the former Bennett Freeze area. “This is the latest funding for the recovery of the area,” the NHLC office stated in a recent report to the Navajo Nation Council. The money is from an escrow account. For 30 years, 1966 to 1996, Navajo families in the Bennett Freeze area were prohibited from making improvements to their homes because of federal restrictions put in place at the behest of the Hopi Tribe, which claimed prior rights to the land.

Meanwhile, land-use payments were held in escrow. In 2010, following a federal settlement lifting the Freeze, some $6.3 million was released to the Navajo Nation to benefit Navajos still residing there.

The land commission hasn’t yet approved the allocation of these funds, prompting the emergence of The Forgotten People, a grassroots group formed to demand an accounting of money spent and to push for needed improvements to the area.

The report to the Council said some $3.9 million of that $6 million has now been allocated to improve or replace dilapidated homes.

The commission also reported that lease fees from the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which is building the Twin Arrows Resort Casino on land acquired under the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute agreement, are beginning to roll in.

Commission officials said the land had been purchased for about $7 million with the commission and the casino paying half of the cost. The land was then taken into ownership by the commission and the casino agreed to make annual payments to the commission for use of the land.

The first payment of $375,000 was made in June, said Raymond Maxx, director of the NHLC office.

10/13/2011 Navajo Times: Sierra Club blasts feds for 'rubber-stamping' mine permits

10/13/2011 Navajo Times: Sierra Club blasts feds for ‘rubber-stamping’ mine permits By Cindy Yurth, Tséyi’ Bureau: A Sierra Club spokesman Tuesday blasted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Surface Mining for “rubber-stamping” two permits for Peabody Western Coal Co.’s Kayenta Mine, saying they had not seriously considered the impacts on the environment and the community. The US EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board this week finalized a water discharge permit for the mine over the objections of the Sierra Club, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, which claimed in an appeal that wastewater from the mine contains heavy metals that could end up in drinking and irrigation water.

EPA Water Permits Manager Dave Smith said the appellants did not present any evidence that the mine’s treated storm runoff, which is discharged into washes, is a threat to drinking water supplies.

The appellants are considering an appeal to U.S. Circuit Court.

And last month, OSM issued a “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, in renewing the company’s permit to continue mining at its Kayenta operation through 2015, meaning there is no need for a new environmental impact statement.

Public comment on the FONSI is being accepted through Oct. 22 and is supposed to be incorporated into the agency’s final record of decision on the permit.

Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club called the FONSI “administratively incomplete,” saying it is unsigned and does not include Peabody’s groundwater reclamation bond or hydrology reports.

The FONSI calls the mine’s impacts on the Navajo Aquifer water “negligible to minor,” and states “the N Aquifer drinking water use designation remains uncompromised.”

Bessler said OSM has ignored a recent report by University of Arizona scientist Daniel Higgins which contains data showing the mine’s use of water impacts some of the water sources around Black Mesa, where it is located.

The FONSI also finds no significant impact on local residents, despite the fact that four households would be displaced by new mining.

“Relocated residents are compensated for the replacement of all structures and for lost grazing acreage if the resident can establish a customary use area claim,” the agency reasoned.

“Ask them (the residents) if that’s significant,” Bessler retorted.

10/12/2011 Gallup Independent: Hopi opposes groundwater use at Arizona Snowbowl

10/12/2011 Hopi opposes groundwater use at Arizona Snowbowl By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau,Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – A Navajo Nation Council resolution supporting the use of groundwater to make artificial snow at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff is under fire by the Hopi Tribe. “The Hopi Tribal Council does not join or support a recently proposed Navajo Nation Council resolution recommending the use of groundwater for snow-making on Nuvatukyaovi,” the Hopi name for the sacred mountain, Hopi stated Tuesday in a press release. Hopi believe the only water appropriate for Nuvatukyaovi is natural water as provided by rain and snow. “There can be no exceptions,” they said.

“The Hopi Tribal Council, all known Hopi religious practitioners, the Hopi Tribe and its people are still, and always will be, opposed to the use of any snow-making operations on Nuvatukyaovi,” Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said. “The Navajo proposal is not a solution to the issues facing the tribes with respect to Arizona Snowbowl’s expansions on Nuvatukyaovi.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Walter Phelps, sponsor of the resolution, said Tuesday that the Nation does not have an official position on the use of groundwater and the resolution “will stimulate discussion on the issue. We just need to get some of that clarified. We also need to discuss alternatives.”

One possible option in discussion is to buy into the Snowbowl.

“There’s an offer by the developer. He’s willing to sell a portion back to us,” Delegate Katherine Benally told Steve Titla, general counsel for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, during Tuesday’s meeting of the Nabik’iyati’ Committee.

San Carlos representatives came to ask for Navajo Nation support in protecting Oak Flat, one of its sacred sites threatened by copper mining. Benally asked whether San Carlos would be interested in “sharing resources” to buy into the ski resort.

“That is a very interesting proposal that I will share with my Chairman,” Titla said.

Splitting the $15 million cost for a 30 percent stake in the Snowbowl with other interested Arizona tribes which hold the mountain sacred would give them an equity stake and a seat at the table on discussions of artificial snow-making.

Navajo first began discussing purchase of the ski resort two years ago when the price stood at $48 million. Since then, the cost of subsequent legal cases has been attached to the selling price and has driven up the cost to $52 million.

In the alternative, Phelps’ resolution supports the use of groundwater as opposed to reclaimed or recovered-reclaimed water in the snow-making process on Dook’o’oosliid – the Navajo name for the sacred mountain – to prevent its desecration.

“Water – regardless of its source – is a limited and critical natural resource in the Southwest and the Hopi Tribe continues to oppose any artificial snow-making by these means,” according to Louella Nahsonhoya, Hopi public information officer.

Hopi filed suit in August against the city of Flagstaff, challenging its September 2010 decision not to amend or cancel the contract for sale of 1.5 million gallons per day of reclaimed wastewater to the Snowbowl for artificial snow-making.

Hopi said the city already is using more than its fair share of water, and any plans to sell water to the Snowbowl would only worsen the problem. “In addition, the sale of water for snow-making so that a select few can benefit, violates the public interest in wise water use for our region,” Hopi said.

Nuvatukyaovi is an important, sacred place for the Hopi which holds a central and essential role in Hopi culture, traditions and way of life. For Navajo, Dook’o’oosliid has a unique religious significance and a “complete connection with daily songs and prayers to their supernatural beings.”

Navajo, Hopi, the Havasupai Nation, the Hualapai Tribe and others sued to protect the mountain, but in 2008, the 9th Circuit Court failed to recognize the sacred stature of the mountain and allowed the U.S. Forest Service to issue a permit to the Snowbowl for the manufacture of artificial snow from reclaimed water. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, which allowed the 9th Circuit opinion to stand.

Phelps’ resolution was posted on the Navajo Nation Council website last Friday. Tuesday was the final day for public comment before the bill can be considered by the standing committees, however, legislative counsel stated last week that the public is free to provide comments at any time, including at committee meetings.

Phelps said he does not expect the resolution to go before the Resources and Development Committee until the last week of October, so it will not make Council’s fall session agenda.

10/11/2011 Gallup Independent: Hopi challenges BIA over water contamination

10/11/2011 Hopi challenges BIA over water contamination By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: KYKOTSMOVI – The Hopi Tribe has taken legal action against the Bureau of Indian Affairs over its operation of the Tuba City Open Dump and is seeking immediate restoration of contaminated groundwater that is migrating toward the Upper Moenkopi supply wells. Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said the tribe has spent more than 12 years trying to get the BIA to adequately address the issue of groundwater contamination stemming from the open dump since it was shut down in 1997. “Simply put, the BIA has failed to comply with the requirements that are in place to protect the Hopi Tribe’s drinking water,” he stated Monday in a press release.

The Tuba City Open Dump has contaminated groundwater that the Hopi Villages of Upper Moenkopi and Lower Moencopi rely on as their only source of drinking water, according to Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for the Hopi Tribe.

“Since the mid-1990s, the Hopi Tribe has been working under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a comprehensive program for the maintenance and protection of the Tribe’s drinking water sources on the reservation,” Shingoitewa said. “We have a series of ordinances in place which conform to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”

The Hopi claim the BIA did little, if anything, to manage what was being disposed at the dump during its years of operation and exacerbated the contamination by digging waste trenches that brought the waste material into close contact with the water table, approximately 15 feet below surface, according to Nahsonhoya.

The BIA has failed to take any action to prevent the further migration of the contamination that is now within the cone of influence of the Moenkopi supply wells, she said.

According to U.S. EPA, the dump – located on 28 acres of Hopi land and two acres of the Navajo Nation – received waste from 1940 to 1997. EPA signed an enforcement agreement with BIA in 2010, requiring investigation and evaluation of feasible cleanup options. BIA is the lead federal agency responsible for closing the site.

A notice of endangerment and intent to sue filed by Hopi in May 2009 stated that the unlined dump lies directly on top of the Navajo Aquifer and that supply wells located about 4,000 feet west of the dump provide water for the public water supply system that serves the Upper Village of Moenkopi. The Lower Village obtains water from two springs approximately 7,000 feet southwest of the dump.

At the time of the 2009 filing, the Hopi Tribe’s consultant had identified a contaminant plume that included uranium and elevated levels of inorganic contaminants which had migrated more than 4,000 feet downgradient from the dump. Groundwater exceeding the maximum contaminant level for uranium was within 2,500 feet of the village spring and supply wells, posing an imminent threat.

10/12/2011 Navajo Hopi Observer: Water contamination threatens Hopi Partitioned Land

Photo: A picture taken near Black Mesa, Ariz., part of the Hopi Paritioned Land 10/12/2011 Navajo Hopi Observer: Water contamination threatens Hopi Partitioned Land: In response to the recent discovery of water contamination on Hopi Partitioned Lands (HPL), the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management has capped several water wells and fenced off windmills as a public safety measure, including some used by trespassing Navajo tribal members who have not signed Accommodations Agreements (AA) to reside on HPL. Water contamination was among the issues discussed earlier this month during a Navajo AA Permittees meeting held on HPL on behalf of the Navajos who have signed a 75-year AA. These AA Navajo families legally reside on HPL with grazing permits recognized by the Hopi Tribe.

“Many of the issues they’re having on not only HPL, but the Navajo Partitioned Lands (NPL), are because Navajos who have not signed the Accommodation Agreement are illegally trespassing, cutting fences and bringing in their own livestock in the middle of the night,” said Hopi Tribal Councilman Cedric Kuwaninvaya, from the village of Sipaulovi and chairman of the Hopi Land Team. “One would expect this to be a problem of Navajos against the Hopi, but it’s not; it’s Navajos against Navajos.”

Present at the Navajo AA Permittees on HPL meeting, Councilman Kuwaninvaya said he had the opportunity to speak and asked if there were any delegates from the Navajo Nation [government] at the meeting and the answer was none. “Only one representative from the Navajo grazing committee from the area was present and no one representing the Navajo Nation Council. I would have liked to have seen one of their representatives, as we have issues on both the HPL and NPL sides that we need to address as tribal governments.”

Though Navajo permittees have signed an AA, some may still require assistance from their own Navajo Nation government.

“The safety of anyone on Hopi land, not just Navajo and Hopi people, is of utmost importance to us,” said Clayton Honyumptewa, Director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources. “The capping of water wells on the HPL was due to the fact that they were contaminated with uranium and arsenic, an obvious threat to anyone who was to drink it.”

“Our Windmill Crew will actively work to repair broken or malfunctioning windmills on the HPL,” he said. “We continue to work in keeping the lands, water wells and windmills as originally intended and urge those whose lands are being infringed upon to notify us of any wrongdoings and repairs needed.”

The meeting was sponsored by the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management and was attended by the Hopi windmill repair crews, Office of Hopi Lands, Hopi Resource Enforcement Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in addition to the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Commission, Councilman Kuwaninvaya and a staff member from the Hopi Chairman’s office.

About Hopi Partitioned Lands:

The U.S. Congress partitioned the disputed 1882 Executive Order Hopi Reservation in a 1974 Congressional Act with parcels given to Navajo and Hopi Tribes resulting in the forced relocation of both Hopi and Navajo families. Forty-nine Navajo families signed a 75-year Accommodation Agreement to reside on HPL and all Hopi families voluntarily relocated from said disputed lands. Meanwhile several Navajo families continue resisting relocation from HPL to this day. The Hopi Tribe is working to restore the HPL with guidance from Hopi stewardship values and practices.

10/11/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Hopis sue over alleged groundwater contamination

10/11/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Hopis sue over alleged groundwater contamination By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: TUBA CITY — The Hopi Tribe has sued the federal government over its management of an open dump in Tuba City. The lawsuit filed in tribal court alleges that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to ensure that waste at the 30-acre site did not contaminate the land or groundwater. The BIA operated the dump for nearly 50 years before it was closed in 1997, and part of it was covered up and fenced off. A BIA spokeswoman did not immediately return messages left Tuesday seeking comment. The lawsuit seeks enforcement of an order the tribe issued to the BIA in August demanding that the federal agency take immediate action to halt the spread of contamination. The dump is on Hopi and Navajo land.

10/11/2011 The Hopi Tribal Council Does Not Support Navajo’s Proposal to Use Groundwater for Snowmaking on Nuvatukyaovi

10/11/2011 The Hopi Tribal Council Does Not Support Navajo’s Proposal to Use Groundwater for Snowmaking on Nuvatukyaovi: Kykotsmovi, Ariz. – The Hopi Tribal Council does not join or support a recently proposed Navajo Nation Council Resolution recommending the use of groundwater for snowmaking on Nuvatukyaovi (the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff).  Navajo Nation Councilman Walter Phelps has introduced a bill that would have the Navajo Nation support the use of groundwater for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks.

Water – regardless of its source – is a limited and critical natural resource in the Southwest and the Hopi Tribe continues to oppose any artificial snowmaking by these means.  As set forth in the Hopi Tribe’s complaint against the city of Flagstaff, the city is already using more than its fair share of water, and any plans to sell water to the Snowbowl will only worsen this problem.  In addition, the sale of water for snowmaking so that a select few can benefit, violates the public interest in wise water use for our region.

Nuvatukyaovi is an important, sacred place for the Hopi which holds a central and essential role in Hopi culture, traditions and way of life. The Hopi Tribe has tirelessly opposed the issuance of the Special Use Permit to the Arizona Snowbowl, which allows for the installation of artificial snowmaking equipment.  The Hopi Tribe has maintained unwavering opposition to any type of artificial snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks, whether from reclaimed wastewater, recovered reclaimed water or groundwater.  The only water appropriate for Nuvatukyaovi is natural water as provided by rain and snow, and there can be no exceptions.

The Navajo proposal is not a solution to the issues facing the tribes with respect to Arizona Snowbowl’s expansions on Nuvatukyaovi.  Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa affirms, “The Hopi Tribal Council, all known Hopi religious practitioners, the Hopi Tribe and its people are still, and always will be, opposed to the use of any snowmaking operations on Nuvatukyaovi.”

The Tribe continues to declare that the only solution is to prevent any and all artificial snowmaking on the Peaks and to void the contract between the city of Flagstaff and Arizona Snowbowl.

For more information on the Hopi Tribe visit www.hopi-nsn.gov. Contact: Public Information Office Phone: (928) 734-3104 Fax: (928) 734-6665   www.hopi-nsn.gov


Please click on the Scribd link: THE NAVAJO NATION LEGISLATIVE BRANCH LEGISLATION NO: _0420-11______ SPONSOR: Walter Phelps TITLE: An Action Relating To Resources And Development And NAABIK’IYATI’; Supporting The Use of Groundwater for Snowmaking


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10/10/2011 Frontiers, the Changing America Desk: Coal Remains King On Navajo Nation…For Now

10/10/2011 Frontiers, the Changing America Desk: Coal Remains King On Navajo Nation…For Now By Laurel Morales: FLAGSTAFF — The last of the world’s largest coal-slurry plants will literally implode next month. The Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada closed in 2005 after a series of conflicts with environmentalists and the Navajo Nation over pollution and water use. Explosives will be strategically placed around the steel-framed boiler towers so it will collapse and crumble into dust. And other coal-fired power plants in the region may soon face a similar fate. That puts hundreds of jobs for the Navajo and Hopi tribes in jeopardy.

Navajo Generating Station’s three stacks – each 775 feet tall – are visible from several miles away. This plant was built about the same time as the Mohave, and unlike the decommissioned Mohave plant, has kept on top of pollution control mandates. So it’s still operating, sitting adjacent to Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed slot canyons in the southwest; and just a couple miles from Lake Powell.

Enough coal is pulverized to power 3 million people in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and beyond. Yet the floor barely vibrates.

In the control room, Julius Fat sits in front of several computer screens and buttons. He points out the two buttons that when pushed together shut down the entire plant.

“You can’t lose your cool in here,” Fat said. “You got to keep it together.”

Fat is one of many Navajos who work for the plant and send money back to their families.

“From my side of the family we have livestock; I have to buy hay for my mom,” Fat said. “There’s a lot of ways people benefit from it. Jobs are hard to find on the reservation.”

In fact, the unemployment rate on the Navajo Nation is almost 50 percent. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants provide about 1,500 jobs and more than a third of the tribe’s annual operating budget. Not to mention scholarships and royalty checks.

But many are worried the plants could shut down.

Environmentalists have targeted coal energy in the region with lawsuits, claiming poor air pollution controls contribute to the haze at Grand Canyon and beyond.

And the EPA is expected to come out with new clean up mandates in coming months – mandates that could cost as much as a billion dollars to upgrade each of the three plants on or near the reservation.

George Hardeen worked for former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., and now consults with the Navajo Generating Station.

“When Navajos leave the Navajo Nation they take with them their language, their culture and their way of life,” Hardeen said. “If there are no jobs on the Navajo Nation, they don’t return. The Navajo Generating Station has served as an economic anchor for almost 40 years.”

With coal jobs threatened, the tribe is looking for alternatives. And their geography could be an asset.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Manager Walter Haase just signed an agreement with Edison Mission and the Salt River Project to build a large scale wind farm on a ranch owned by the tribe west of Flagstaff.

“This type of project is a paradigm shift for the Native American community,” Haase said.

This is the first renewable project that is majority owned by a tribe. It would create about 350 temporary jobs during construction, but only 10 permanent jobs.

While Haase would like to see the tribe offset its economic dependence on coal, he says it’s not practical to say renewable energy will replace coal.

“So if you were to switch from one to the other, which isn’t physically possible, you’re going from 1,500 jobs down to 150 jobs,” Haase said. “That’s a losing equation for anybody.”

Many renewable energy developers have tried and failed to get projects started on the reservation.

Navajo community developer Brett Isaac is trying to bring commercial solar projects and green jobs to his home town of Shonto. But he said he has to tread carefully. He has many relatives who work in the coal industry.

“If they were to close tomorrow, we would be in a whole mess of trouble,” Isaac said. “We’re to some degree supportive of them continuing operation. The regulations are going to catch up with them and we need to start planning ahead and thinking about the long term.”

Isaac is willing to forge a compromise and move slowly toward a better solution. In the meantime, legislators have asked the EPA to give the Navajo Generating Station another 15 years without additional upgrades. This would buy some time for a more diverse and clean industry to develop on the reservation.

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