Black Mesa Project EIS available
By Kathy Helms, Diné Bureau,
Independent, November 11, 2008
WINDOW ROCK ó The final Environmental Impact Statement
analyzing the effects of the Black Mesa Project was
published Friday in the Federal Register by the U.S.
Office of Surface Mining and the Environmental Protection
The waiting period for the record of
decision on the proposed project ends Dec. 8.
If the project is approved as proposed,
the existing facilities and unmined coal reserves within
the area where Peabody Western Coal Co.ís Black Mesa
Mine previously operated would be added to the permit
for the Kayenta Mine, which supplies 8.5 million tons
of coal per year to the Navajo Generating Station at
Since coal would no longer be supplied
to Mohave Generating Station from the Black Mesa Complex,
water consumption at the Complex would be reduced from
about 4,400 a cre-feet of Navajo aquifer water per year
to an average of 1,236 acre-feet for mining-related
and domestic purposes.
The agenciesí preferred alternative
is Alternative B, which is approval of Peabodyís July
2 revision that includes adding 18,857 acres to the
permanent program permit area, revising the operation
and reclamation plan, and approving changes to the mining
plan for the Hopi and Navajo coal leases.
Issuance of the final Environmental
Impact Statement completes a National Environmental
Policy Act process that began four years ago. OSM received
more than 18,000 comments on the draft EIS issued in
November 2006, largely because of concerns about proposed
use of N-aquifer water.
The Black Mesa Project included operations associated
with supplying coal to both the Navajo Generating Station
and the Mohave Generating Station. Mohave suspended
operations in December 2005.
As proposed, the plan included resumption
of operations of an existing coal slurry preparation
plant at Black Mesa; reconstruction of the existing
273-mile long coal-slurry pipeline from Black Mesa to
Mohave; =0 A and construction of a new water-supply
system and a new 108-mile-long water-supply pipeline
from a new well field in the Coconino aquifer near Leupp
to the mine complex. Those are no longer proposed.
The Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation also
proposed that the C-aquifer water-supply system could
be expanded to provide an additional 5,600 acre-feet
per year of water for tribal domestic, municipal, industrial,
and commercial uses. Both tribes indicated that up-sizing
the pipeline and expanding the systemís well field would
fulfill their needs to expand and improve tribal water
supplies at a relatively modest cost.
The Environmental Impact Statement analyzes
the tribesí potential withdrawals of C-aquifer water
from the proposed well field, however, construction
of tribal water-distribution systems was never proposed
as a part of the Black Mesa Project, therefore, it is
OSM said that although these actions
are no longer proposed and are not part of the preferred
alternative, they still could occur under certain circumstances.
Mohave remains permitted for operation and has not been