COAL, WATER, and ENERGY on the Navajo Nation
Tom GreyEyes and Nadine worked tirelessly over the past two weeks. The site-specific mural is located at the median between the point of mineral extraction and refinery, producing energy. It examines the human health and environmental impact of Peabody Western coal company’s mining at the Kayenta mine on the Black Mesa plateau (some 40 miles to the southeast), burning this coal at the Navajo Generating Station (45 miles to the northwest) and the water issues on the Colorado river as it leaves Glen Canyon Dam traveling through the Grand Canyon. It’s a comprehensive piece that utilizes the mural space as a political megaphone for the voiceless, empowering viewers through the dissemination of information. Interaction with the community of Inscription House was an integral component of using Art as a teaching tool, creating a space where there was dialogue about these issues, including feedback from locals. This piece is at the junction of highway 98 and Indian route 16 at the old Crossroads Trading Post. Shout out and Axhe’hee’ (thank you) to Cattryn, Chip Thomas of the Painted Desert Project, Grand Canyon Trust, Save the Confluence and Honor the Treaties for making the project happen.
FACT SHEET compiled by Nadine and Tom
Colorado River Compact
1919 Alliance of “The League of the Southwest” consists of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. The Colorado River is designated to supplement the growth of these seven states as water allocation negotiations begin.
1922 representatives from the seven states form the Colorado River Compact. The seven states are divided into the Upper Basin and Lower Basin; both basins are allocated 8 million-acre feet of water from the 16.5 million acre feet flow of the Colorado River to apportion. Upper Basin: Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico Lower Basin: Arizona, Nevada, California
1934 Arizona v. California disputes over water distribution led to adjustments in apportioned rights
1944 Investigations for construction of the Central Arizona Project begin. Formal recommendations for authorization in 1949.
1944 Treaty with Mexico allocating 1.5 million-acre feet of Colorado River water annually
Since the eighty years since the Colorado Compact has been signed, the actual annual flow of the river is about 13.5 million-acre feet. The estimation of annual flow eighty years ago was 16.5 million-acre feet (maf) and has since proved to be much less. 1 Acre feet of water=326,000 gallons
Annual water allocation in accordance with the Colorado Compact:
Colorado 51.75% 3.86 maf
Utah 23% 1.71 maf
Wyoming 14% 1.04 maf
New Mexico 11.25% .84 maf
Arizona .7% .05 maf
California 58.7% 4.4 maf
Arizona 37.3% 2.8 maf
Nevada 4% .3 maf
Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private-sector coal corporation with 10 mines in the Midwest (Illinois and Indiana), one of the largest underground mines in Colorado, three mines in the traditional territory of the Cheyenne people at the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and operations in China, Mongolia, Australia, and Indonesia.
1963 Peabody appeals to Navajo and Hopi governments to negotiate leases for mineral extraction at Black Mesa.
1967 Black Mesa Archaeological Project is initiated by Peabody Coal Company. Presently, BMAP is the largest and longest running projects in the history of North American archaeology. The BMAP collection consists of over1.3 million prehistoric Navajo and Hopi artifacts.
1968 Black Mesa Mine and Kayenta Mine are established, mining 14tons of coal annually. Black Mesa Mine feeds coal to Mohave Generating Station273 miles away via slurry pipeline using billions of gallons of ground water from the Navajo-Aquifer below Black Mesa. Kayenta Mine feeds 8 million tons of coal to Navajo Generating Station 74 miles away via electric train, where it produces energy for central and southern Arizona, California, and Nevada.
1974 Efforts to develop natural resources led to the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act, which partitioned 1.8 million acres of jointly used land forcing over 10,000 Navajos to relocate
2005 Mohave Generating Station abandons its production of electricity in violation of the Clean Air Act; in addition, grassroots organizations complied a resolution and presented it to Navajo and Hopi tribes, successfully urging their governments to end Peabody’s slurry operation shortly there after. Navajo Aquifer is the sole source of drinking water for the Navajo and Hopi people. Its pristine ice age waters naturally exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards. Substantial drawdown of the N-aquifer resulted in the destruction of sacred seeps and springs to the Navajo and Hopi people.
Black Mesa is a sacred site to Navajo and Hopi tribes. It is regarded as a living, breathing, deity which is called upon in songs and prayers. Since Peabody’s coal mining operations, over 400 million tons of coal has been extracted from Black Mesa. The open pit strip mining of Black Mesa has left the region with thousands of acres of land that is no longer suitable for farming and livestock and is generally uninhabitable. Peabody does not pay for coal by the ton, but by the acreage of land leased and has rights to develop minerals like copper, uranium, and gold, everything except oil and gas. Peabody holds a life of mine permit, which means they can mine until there is absolutely nothing left. Peabody pays both tribes below market value for coal and water. Peabody pays 1/8th of a penny for one gallon of water verses the rate that Black Mesa residents pay, 1 full penny for one gallon.
Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968
The most expensive and controversial water distribution initiative that Congress has approved. Construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) began in 1973 at a cost of 4 billion dollars and was declared completed in 1993. It is a 336-mile aqueduct system that starts at the Mark Wilmer Pumping Plant at Lake Havasu and ends 14 miles south of Tucson. 1.5 million-acre feet of water is pushed up an elevation inclination of 3,000 feet to supplement central and southern Arizona’s annual urban and agricultural needs. In 1976water was allocated to 12 central and southern Arizona Indian tribes, however, only 7 tribes have water distribution systems, development of the water distribution systems for the remaining 5 tribes is estimated to take 10-20years to complete. CAP looses 16,000 acre-feet of water to evaporation annually. There are 309 miles of transmission lines that provide 320 megawatts of energy to CAP. Navajo Generating Station provides 90% of the energy needed to operate CAP.
Navajo Generating Station
Construction of Navajo Generation Station (NGS) began in 1969 at a cost of 650 million dollars, initially to provide energy for the Central Arizona Project, however only 320 megawatts are needed for the CAP, so the remaining energy produced is all profit and resold for electricity distribution. NGS’s current lease expiries in 2019, which means renegotiation of lease factors will take place and will need to be approved by all constituents and stake holders. If NGS is granted a lease extension, it will mean consumers will have access to inexpensive electricity and water from the CAP until 2044. 85%of NGS’s 520 employees are Navajo and the Navajo tribe insists on keeping NGS open as long as it remains an economic opportunity for the Navajo people. Commercial operation of NGS started after 1976 producing a capacity of 2,250 megawatts from three 750-megawatt units. NGS spent 650 million dollars well into the early 1990s on environmental control equipment, SO2 and NOx scrubbers. Current annual emissions at NGS: SO2 4,076 tons, NOx 20,633 tons, CO2 19,859,041 tons, Mercury 420-566 pounds. These toxic pollutants are known to cause respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, pulmonary emphysema, lung disease, convulsions, blindness, hypertension, memory loss, depression, cancer, infertility, and acid rain. Currently, the EPA is deciding upon the technology NGS will need to install, BART, the Best Available Retrofit Technology means that NGS must install the best technology available for preventing the release of pollutants into the air. The technology will cost between $550 million to one billion dollars. NGS stakeholders formed a group called TWIG who released a “Better than BART Solution” which implies that NGS will shutdown one of the three 750 megawatt units in order to forgo the billion dollar pollution scrubber upgrade. The Colorado River Basin Project allowed the federal government under the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to participate in the non-federal operation of Navajo Generating Station. Contrary to popular belief, Navajo Generating Station is not owned or operated by the Navajo tribe. Service area for NGS includes Arizona, California, and Nevada. Navajo Generating Station creates electricity for urban cities when thousands of Navajo families do not have electricity or running water.
Owners of Navajo Generating Station
Percent of Energy Owned
Bureau of Reclamation 24.3%
Tucson Electric Power 7.5%
Nevada Energy 11.3%
Arizona Public Service 14%
Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power 21.2%
Salt River Project 21.7%
NGS is permitted 50,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado River at Lake Powell from Arizona’s apportioned water rights in the upper basin, to use for cooling the three 750 megawatt towers but uses about 30,000acre feet annually. NGS pays next to nothing for the water and the land that the generating station sits on.
Glen Canyon Dam
Glen Canyon Dam is a contingent of the Colorado River Compact, under the Colorado River Storage Project of 1956 to provide a water reserve in the case that there is ever a water shortage. It also serves as a division between the upper and lower basins. Glen Canyon was once a beautiful gorge that housed numerous species of plants, birds, and fish, as well as 3,000 ancient ruins that are now under water. The Bony Tail Chub and Colorado Pike Minnow are native fish species that have completely vanished from the Grand Canyon because of Glen Canyon Dam. The Humpback Chub and the Razorback Sucker are currently listed as Endangered Species. Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Lake Mead supplements water to Nevada. Both Reservoirs are at less than 50% capacity and will probably never fill again. Glen Canyon Dam traps 100 million tons of sediment annually. Nutrient rich sediment is an important element that builds up sand bars on the riverbanks and greatly contributes to a thriving complex canyon and river ecosystem. Lake Powell reservoir harbors a large amount of heavy metals that are natural and human caused, these include, mercury, arsenic, lead, boron, and selenium. These toxic heavy metals would normally pass through the river system harmoniously and into the ocean.
The Confluence is where the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River meet. To the native people in the region, Navajo and Hopi, this location holds a strong place in creation stories and plays a huge role in ceremonial practices. The confluence is a sacred site and has been described as “the place where two deities meet”. The confluence is under attack with the proposed construction of a multi-million dollar Escalade resort and tramway system that would bring thousands of tourists to the eastern rim of the Grand Canyon. Residents at the confluence would be forced to remove themselves from the land if this proposal should be authorized.
Winters v. United States ruled that the federal government has the right to reserve waters and exempt that water from appropriation under State laws for present and future Indian water needs and protects its water from subsequent diversion of surface or groundwater. The doctrine allowed the federal government to acknowledge its trust responsibility to secure enough water to fulfill the purpose of creating reservation lands and to make those lands suitable for cultivation and that obscurities in Indian treaties must be resolved in favor of Indians. In Arizona v. California 1963, the McCarran Amendment held that the doctrine applies to all federally reserved public lands. In addition, the Supreme Court declared that Winters doctrine remains a valid and vital principle of Indian law.
ART + ACTIVISM = GREATER CONSCIOUSNESS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE