Nation’s leaders cannot see into the future
By Marshall Johnson
To’ Nizhoni Ani

BLACK MESA, Ariz. – At present there is a negotiating team that is trying to keep a 40-year-old technology alive that is dirty and wastes water.

I’m talking about the Mohave Generating Station. Mohave was completed in 1971 and it is now near the end of its life. Mohave was sued in 1994-95 and through a consent decree was ordered to install pollution control equipment by the end of 2005.

With controversy over coal prices and renewed water leases, Southern California Edison, which is a majority owner of Mohave, must be certain that the coal and water can be negotiated again in order to invest in the refurbishment of the plant.

So today our leaders are negotiating aggressively to keep Mohave alive. The point is we as the Navajo Nation cannot see into the future and look for a more sustainable way of existing. We as the Navajo Nation can only see into the past.

One proposal is to continue using the N-Aquifer, despite opposition from the people of Black Mesa. Another proposal is to use the C-Aquifer and pipe it up to the mine from Leupp, Ariz., area.

President Joe Shirley Jr., looking for support for the C-Aquifer proposal in August 2003, told the people of Leupp that the ale of their water would bring jobs and economic prosperity. He proceeded to tell the people of Leupp that the N-Aquifer has dropped and the amount of recharge to the aquifer is less each year and so they must seek the water in the C-Aquifer.

He referred the people to his source of information, which were the Navajo Nation’s hydrologists in the Water Resources Department and water rights lawyers. He told the people that there is a lot of water in the C-Aquifer and that there wouldn’t be negative impacts to their water source.

I want to remind everyone that this is what officials told the people of Black Mesa over 30 years ago when they wanted the coal and water. This proposal to keep Mohave alive is a proposal for the continued dependence on outsiders to control our resources and deplete our water.

If we renegotiate the N-Aquifer, we are jeopardizing the health and stability of our only reliable source of drinking water. We are jeopardizing our future for a billion dollar corporation – Peabody Coal Company.

Seven power plants encircle the Navajo Reservation. We supply these power plants with Navajo coal. We own none of them. We are the source of power for millions of people in California, Nevada and Arizona, but we buy back our own energy through Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, which buys back our energy from the owners of these power plants.

We are responsible for the pollution that clouds the air, the gases that contribute to global warming. We are indigenous people who say the earth is our mother and the sky is our father and we are killing our environment.

Nowhere else are there so many power plants in such close proximity to one another. We should be the richest tribe, richer than any casino tribe. We could have huge convention centers and a university. Diné College could be receiving funding indefinitely.

Instead, in a deal between the owners of Navajo Generation Station, we waived our rights to the Colorado River and settled for five years of funding for Diné College. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Southern California Edison, Salt River Project and Peabody are all rich because of us.

We still live and act like a Third World country, begging them not to abandon us.

These government entities and energy companies are smart. They plan for “their” constituents decades ahead of time. By the mid-1900s the ground water was used up in southern Arizona. Towns and cities were quickly populated with foreigners. This overdraft of the aquifers in southern Arizona resulted in subsidence and fissures, big holes, and cracks in the ground like the ones on Black Mesa.

To address this environmental problem of subsidence and the loss of the groundwater an association was formed. In 1946 The Central Arizona Project association was formed to educate Arizonans about the need for CAP and to lobby Congress to bring surface water to southern Arizona cities and recharge the overdrawn aquifers.

Twenty-two years later, in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill that would authorize the construction of CAP. This is same year U.S. Department of Interior representatives pushed the Navajo Nation Council to waive Navajo rights to the Colorado River.

The same year that the coal leases for Peabody Coal Company were signed so that Navajo Generating Station, which gets its coal from Peabody, could provide the energy to pump the water up the CAP canals to Phoenix and Tucson.

The federal government and the state have been planning for their energy and water needs 20 years in advance. It’s time we join in the foresight and long-term planning for our nation. No one will do it for us.

Everyone wants our resource. They will keep coming. They won’t stop until it’s all gone. If we continue to give it away or settle for less, there will be no sustainable future for our people.

Marshall Johnson is co-founder of To’Nizhoni Aniz, a grassroots group of the people of Black Mesa.


Originally found in the Navajo Times, 6 January 2005.
Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. posted without profit or payment for non-profit research, educational, and archival purposes only




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posted 16 january 2005, by louve14