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Grand Canyon Uranium Mine and Dam Proposals
Issues: Mining, National Parks, Renewable Energy, Watersheds, Wildlife
Partner: Grand Canyon Trust
Airport Origin : Valle, AZ
With the Grand Canyon Protection Act recently passing in the House, our flight provided conservation partners and the press with images & video to spread public awareness and advocate for the Senate to pass the Act.
Hydroelectric projects and uranium mining in the Grand Canyon jeopardize the Colorado River and species like the endangered humpback chub, and threatens areas culturally vital to the Navajo Nation.
Recently a Phoenix-based company withdrew two hydroelectric proposals for projects on the Little Colorado River (LCR). The company, Pumped Hydro Storage LLC, has one remaining application for the Big Canyon, a tributary canyon adjacent to the Little Colorado River. If approved, four dams will be constructed entirely on Navajo Nation 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 annually lose more than 3 billion gallons of groundwater to evaporation - while one out of three individuals of the Navajo Nation are living without 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.
Pinyon Plain, a uranium mine previously called Canyon Mine, is seven miles south of Grand Canyon National Park. The mine sits on Havasupai's tribal homeland, and atop precious groundwater that is the tribes sole 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.
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.