Black Mesa Pumped Hydro Project & Kayenta Mine Reclamation

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Black Mesa Pumped Hydro Project & Kayenta Mine Reclamation

Date: 09/22/2023     State: AZ     Issues: Mining, Renewable Energy, Watersheds, Wild Lands     Airport Origin : Tuba City, AZ    


Analyze the ongoing reclamation efforts at Kayenta Mine and fly the site of the proposed Black Mesa Pumped Hydro Project with Tribal leaders, and Tribal-led conservation groups.

Black Mesa region is the land of the Hopi and Navajo people; it is a mountainous mesa located on the Colorado Plateau in Arizona. The area is dry and desertous, but springs here provide critical habitat and relief to Black Mesa and its wildlife.

Our overflight took you above the western and northwest areas of the Black Mesa region. We flew the Blue Canyon to the western side of Big Mountain. Then we flew to the Forest Lake Chapter community of the Navajo Nation. The flight continued over the Black Mesa mine, which operated for nearly half a century until it closed in 2005. Throughout its lifetime, the Black Mesa coal mine pumped over 45 billion gallons of groundwater from the dry region to create a coal slurry that was transported to the Navajo and Mohave Generating Stations. The coal mine was incredibly degradative to Black Mesa and its people, accounting for a substantial loss in groundwater. We also flew over the more recently closed Kayenta Mine, to examine how reclamation efforts are progressing.

Our flight came to a climax as we soared above the northeastern edge of Black Mesa to view the site of the proposed Black Mesa Pumped Storage Project. The Nature & People First energy company has proposed three pumped storage projects to provide electricity generation. Pumped storage is unique, compared to solar and wind, as power can be generated when needed to meet peak electricity demands. This project would require trillions of gallons of water, yet the water source has not been identified. Many feel the downsides far outweigh minimal clean energy benefits. Construction of the reservoirs, roads, pipelines, and power lines will cause damage to the local ecosystem, threatening endangered species like the Mexican Spotted Owl, and will destroy traditional land uses.

EcoFlight will continue to fly the Black Mesa area to advocate for the protection of its ecosystems, wildlife, water supply, and cultural values and uses.

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