Black Mesa Project EIS available

By Kathy Helms, Diné Bureau, Gallup 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 Agency.

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 Page.

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 not analyzed.

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 decommissi oned.



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.