Grand Canyon – Supai Village
Issues: Mining, National Parks, Renewable Energy, Watersheds, Wildlife
Partners: Grand Canyon Trust, Havasupai Tribe, The New York Times
Airport Origin : Grand Canyon Village, AZ
Create a platform for the New York Times to convene with experts and Havasupai Tribal Council members to create a story educating about threats to the greater Grand Canyon landscape.
Hydroelectric projects and uranium mining in the Grand Canyon jeopardize the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, sensitive species, and culturally significant Tribal lands.
The Grand Canyon is the spiritual and cultural homeland for several Native American Tribes including the Havasupai people, whose name means "people of the blue-green water." The Havasupai live deep within the canyon walls and rely on a spring-fed creek that runs through their village to drink, cook, and irrigate fields of corn and alfalfa, as well as other ceremonial and cultural uses. The Tribe's water is jeopardized by Pinyon Plain, a uranium mine previously called Canyon Mine, that sits atop precious groundwater that is the Tribes main source of drinking water and feeds seeps and springs in the National Park. In 2016 the mine hit groundwater and has since pumped 30 million gallons of contaminated groundwater out of the mine shaft. This has the Tribe and many others concerned about the potential of radioactive contamination spreading into the aquifer, devastating the water that defines the landscape and the people who live in the region. Of the studied springs and existing wells in the Grand Canyon, five percent had uranium levels above the EPA's safe drinking water standards.
Downstream of the Pinyon Plain mine is a proposed hydroelectric project. A Phoenix-based company, Pumped Hydro Storage LLC, withdrew two hydroelectric proposals for projects on the Little Colorado River (LCR), but has one remaining application for Big Canyon, a tributary canyon adjacent to the LCR. If approved, four dams will be constructed entirely on Tribal land. Billions of gallons of groundwater will be pumped from the same aquifer that feeds springs along the LCR, depleting the river's water source during a period of drought. Additionally, the dams operational processes will annually lose more than 3 billion gallons of groundwater to evaporation - while many surrounding Tribal communities lack access to running water. The Big Canyon Project overlooks Indigenous communities and will disrupt the spiritual and cultural practices of people who have called the Grand Canyon home since time immemorial. Sacred places where ceremonies are conducted, prayers are held, and people come to reflect and find peace would be destroyed by flooding, industrialization, and noise.
The Grand Canyon Protection Act has been introduced in both chambers and has passed the House twice. This bill will ban new uranium mines in the 1 million acre region, where there are currently over 600 active mining claims. Protection from hydroelectric projects and the Grand Canyon Protection Act are needed to protect the watershed, ecosystem, and cultural heritage of the Grand Canyon.