October 2002. Grand Canyon National Park could be opened up for a major water development to collect, pump and pipe water from the Colorado River to the Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines in northern Arizona in a last minute change to legislation sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl. A pipe would be constructed down Jackass Canyon to draw water at Badger rapid. The Bureau of Reclamation is expected to announce soon a proposal for a water pumping and pipeline project.
Full environmental review would not be required, according to another of the bill's changes.
"This is an extraordinary invasion of Grand Canyon National Park which clears the way for tearing up the shoreline, building water treatment and pumping plants, and constructing a pipeline in one of the world's greatest natural areas," said Rob Smith, Southwest Representative for the Sierra Club in Phoenix. "The Colorado River belongs in Grand Canyon National Park, not in a coal slurry pipeline."
Unrelated legislation seeking to resolve water rights for the Zuni Tribe and other water users on the Little Colorado River - S. 2743 - was introduced by Senator Kyl in September after four years of negotiations without any Grand Canyon water project provisions. But a new section was quietly added to the bill in Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week to provide water for a pipeline to the coal mines from the Grand Canyon without any notice or public hearings on the issue.
"The Grand Canyon water project has nothing to do with settling the Zuni's water rights, and should be removed from this bill," said Smith. "There are other alternatives to solving the Hopi's water problems which don't involved sacrificing the Grand Canyon to the coal industry."
The amended bill authorizes water to be leased to Salt River Project (SRP) and removed from the Colorado River "between Lake Mead and Lee Ferry" to be used "only for mining related purposes...and for slurrying coal from the Black Mesa and Kayenta Coal Mines."
SRP operates the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, which gets coal from the Kayenta mine, and is partial owner of the Mohave Generating Station at Laughlin, Nevada, which currently uses water from an underground aquifer to slurry coal from the Black Mesa mine to the power plant. The Hopi Tribe has opposed pumping more underground water for the coal slurry because springs and streams have dried up on the reservation.