Mine pipeline could dry up Leupp wells

Arizona Daily Sun
Sun Staff Reporter
December 3, 2006

Pumping water from the aquifer near Leupp to a reopened Black Mesa Mine would help restore hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in annual tribal revenues.

But it will come with a social and environmental cost, according to a new federal impact study.

Seventeen Navajo families in the path of the new pipeline would need to be relocated; (sic)

Ranchers south of Leupp could see their wells fail; (sic)

Threatened fish in nearby creeks could have a tougher time surviving the dry season.

Enough water to supply the equivalent of 18,000 households annually would be piped to Black Mesa and the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev., under this proposal.

That would be on top of the 24,000 additional households the city of Flagstaff hopes to supply with water pumped from the same area by 2050.

Although the Coconino Aquifer is vast, there are some anticipated impacts to shallow wells near Leupp, according to a draft environmental impact statement by the federal Office of Surface Mining.

Peabody Western Coal Co. would be required to replace any water supplies that failed due to nearby drawdowns south of Leupp, according to the report.

Use of the Coconino Aquifer could affect nearby creeks by up to 1 percent, the study found.

"Although these reductions in base flow that could result from the proposed project would be very small and likely may not even be measurable, they may affect the availability of suitable stream habitat and reduce the ability of fish populations to survive the dry seasons," the EIS found.

The Little Colorado spinedace, which is federally listed as threatened, and native bluehead suckers, Little Colorado suckers and roundtail chub live in these waterways.

Pumping from a paper manufacturer, the city of Winslow and a power plant already has an impact on these fish, Flagstaff Utilities Director Ron Doba said.

The Laughlin power plant closed at the end of 2005 due to a failure to negotiate a new coal contract and after its owners decided not to retrofit to curb ongoing air pollution violations.

If a new financial partner were to come aboard at Mohave, they would have to pay an estimated $1 billion to retrofit the plant and build a new pipeline to carry water from Leupp to Black Mesa, plus retrofit the existing coal slurry line to Laughlin.

Salt River Project has expressed interest in increasing its stake to get the power plant operating by 2010 or 2011.

The Navajo Aquifer would also continue to be available for mining if there were any interruptions in the availability of Coconino Aquifer water, according to these plans, and for mine reclamation.

Hopi farmers have protested the use of the Navajo Aquifer for mining.

The proposal also gives the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe the option of paying for additional pipelines to serve residents near the trunk line from Leupp to Black Mesa.

Black Mesa would ramp up its coal mining from 4.8 million tons to 6.35 million tons a year under these plans, increase royalties to the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation by about 10.5 percent and add 220 jobs between mining operations and pipeline operators.

This comes after about 125 jobs were lost in the shutdown of Black Mesa Mine.

Peabody had mined in the Black Mesa Complex since the 1970s and had leases to mine up to 670 million tons of coal from Navajo and Hopi lands.

Mining operations at the Kayenta and Black Mesa mines were slated to last until 2026.

Public meetings will be held on this proposal in the month of January.

The local chapter of the Sierra Club asked the Office of Surface Mining to delay the meetings, citing bad road conditions and tribal religious ceremonies in that month.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at ccole@azdailysun.com.

Pipeline meeting schedule

Public meetings will be held in:

  • Window Rock on Jan. 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Resource Room at the Navajo Nation Museum, Highway 64 and Loop Road.
  • Moenkopi on Jan. 3, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Center.
  • Kayenta on Jan. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Monument Valley High School cafeteria, north Highway 163.
  • Kykotsmovi on Jan. 4 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Veterans Center.
  • Leupp on Jan. 9 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Leupp Chapter House on Navajo Route 15.
  • Winslow on Jan. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Winslow High School, Student Union, 600 E. Cherry Avenue.
  • Flagstaff on Jan. 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Little America Hotel, 2515 East Butler Avenue.

The draft EIS is available for review at http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/WR/BlackMesaEIS.htm.

A limited number of CD and paper copies of the draft EIS have been prepared and are available upon request. For more information, contact Dennis Winterringer, Leader, Black Mesa Project EIS, OSM Western Region, at (303) 844-1400, ext. 1440, or by e-mail at BMKEIS@osmre.gov.

E-mail comments should be sent to BMKEIS@osmre.gov.


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html