Survival at Black Mesa


Leupp residents chase off tribal survey crew

By Marley Shebala, Navajo Times 08/25/05

WINDOW ROCK — Some Leupp, Ariz., residents ran off a Navajo Nation archaeological crew that visited the chapter this week as part of President Joe Shirley Jr.’s Coconino Aquifer study.

Davina Two Bears, program manager for the Navajo Nation Archaeology Department’s Northern Arizona University branch, confirmed Tuesday that a crew was chased off while attempting to survey the area for artifacts.

Two Bears said she had not yet talked directly with the crew leader, Kimberly Spurr.

Spurr had notified Leupp Chapter President Thomas Cody by letter that the crew would be conducting the survey Aug. 16 to Sept. 9.

The Leupp Chapter is on record opposing the study, which residents fear will lead to large-scale withdrawals of ground water from the aquifer.

Council Delegate Leonard Chee {Leupp/Birdspring/Tolani Lake) said Tuesday upon learning of the confrontation he immediately went to Shirley’s office to ask that he talk to the Leupp community before proceeding with the C-Aquifer study, as promised.

Chee said Shirley was on travel and he was referred to Vice President Frank Dayish, Jr., who was unavailable.

Chee said he tried contacting Arvin Trujillo, director of the Division of Natural Resources, who oversees the archaeology department, but he also was on travel.

“” (Sic) We fully understand the concerns of the Leupp Chapter residents and chapter officials and we have tried to honor your requests that no work be conducted in support of the (C-Aquifer) project,” Spurr stated in her letter to the chapter president.

“However,” she stated, “our office has received a direct order from Arvin Trujillo, director of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources, and from members of the Natural Resources Committee that our offices must proceed with the cultural resources fieldwork for this project.”

On Aug. 15, Assistant Attorney General Robert Rutherford advised Trujillo that Leupp chapter and its residents had no legal right to block the archaeological survey.

Trujillo said Tuesday that an archaeological clearance is not an approval to use the C-Aquifer.

“The Leupp Chapter is not being pushed aside,” Trujillo said. “I can relate to their frustration but they also lack water infrastructure. This (C-Aquifer study) is just a matter of balancing limited resources and getting water to communities.”

Two Bears noted that the incident between her crew and some Leupp residents was a first for her department.

She said people sometimes misunderstand what the archaeology department does, which is simply to identify cultural resources such as traditional properties, sacred sites, burial places, and historic and prehistoric Navajo and Anasazi sites so those areas can be avoided during construction projects.

“Our primary concern is for those cultural resources and making sure they are protected,” Two Bears said.

Two Bears said the archaeology crews also interviews residents and if the cultural information gathered is determined to be sensitive, it is kept in confidential files that are not open to the public.

She added that interviews have not started in Leupp.

Cody said Tuesday that the community plans to meet Sunday to discuss the attorney’s opinion that the chapter has no legal right to block the C-aquifer archaeology study.

The chapter, in the July 10 resolution opposing the study stated that Richard Begay, principal archaeologist, said the archaeological and cultural studies would be conducted as part of the study and would be paid for by the energy companies.

They said Shirley, in a January 2004 memorandum of agreement, assured the energy companies that they would have access to the C-aquifer if the quality and quantity of the water and all other related studies say it is feasible.

Shirley signed the agreement with Southern California Edison, owner of the Mohave Generating Station, the Hopi Tribe, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation.

Their aim is to determine if C-aquifer would sustain the withdrawal of 11,600 acre-feet of water annually without beginning to dry up. An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons, or a football field filled with water one foot deep.

Under Shirley’s proposal, the 11,600 acre-feet of water would be divided in three ways.

Peabody Coal Co. would receive 6,000 acre-feet per year through 2027 to slurry coal via a pipeline from its Black Mesa Mine to the Mohave Generating Station.

The Leupp, Tolani Lake, Birdspring, Dilkon, and Teesto chapters would get 3,600 acre-feet per year for their projected municipal water needs through 2030.

The Hopi Tribe would receive 2,000 acre-feet per year, which would come from wells located on the Hopi-owned Hart Ranch south of the Navajo Nation.

Shirley contends that without the C-aquifer, the Black Mesa Mine would have to shut down, which would mean a loss of about $28 million in coal royalties and taxes and hundreds of mining jobs.

On March 12, Shirley attended an emotionally charged Leupp Chapter meeting concerning the C-aquifer study, where he promised to go to the homes of community members and talk with them about the study.

George Hardeen, spokesman for Shirley, said Tuesday that Shirley has had scheduling conflicts every weekend since then.

Hardeen said Shirley still plans to meet with community members.



Water wars heat up in Leupp

By Cyndy Cole
Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun

Peabody's Black Mesa Mine appears destined for certain shutdown, yet mine-related water wars in Leupp have flared regardless, with a chapter pitted against the tribe's president, heated town forums and locals chasing away archeological surveyors.

The Navajo Nation is now projecting a 6 percent loss in income next year after Black Mesa Mine closes, spokesman George Hardeen said.

Elders, environmentalists and residents near Black Mesa Mine addressed Navajo Nation and Office of Surface Mining representatives Wednesday at a chapter forum, essentially saying they weren't willing to see a pipeline built to take water away while most of their homes remained dry.

"You're going to take our good water. Are you going to leave us with the bad water?" resident Woodie Smith asked through a translator.

Archeological surveyors were chased away, according to published reports, and the Leupp Chapter has engaged in a battle of wills with the Navajo Nation's officials in Window Rock, seeking a legal way to kill any plan for a pipeline.

"Taking this water and using it for this use is offensive to you, and we understand that," Debra Duerr, a contractor who's helping to analyze potential impacts from the pipeline for the Office of Surface Mining, told the Leupp audience.

At last count, an assistant attorney general told the chapter it didn't have the authority to override a presidential decision on the matter.

But most likely, the much-argued pipeline won't even be built, at least not in the next five years.

The Canyon Diablo area south of Leupp has been eyed by Flagstaff and by mining and power companies as a prime location for city drinking water and also as a new source for ferrying Black Mesa coal to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev., where it's burned to power Southern California.

Studies are under way right now to determine whether such pumping would impact endangered species in two creeks.

The problem is, the power station owners have run out of time to clean up their facilities, as they must under court order, following numerous Clean Air Act violations and lawsuit from several environmental groups.

As a result, the mine is likely to be closed until at least 2009, due to the time it takes to redesign and retrofit such a plant, ongoing negotiations over the price of coal and a few other factors.

Lost with the mine's closure will be more than 300 jobs, $17 million in royalties for the Navajo Nation, or about 4 percent of the nation's budget, and an estimated 35 percent of the Hopi Tribe's budget.

Both Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., and Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr., have conceded that the mine will close, despite ongoing negotiations with mining company Peabody and Mohave Generating Station owner Southern California Edison.

At the same time, the residents are unlikely to get water piped to their homes unless the power and mining industry or officials in Washington D.C. step in with funding, tribal water attorney Stanley Pollack said.

Some have put the onus for the tribes' financial situations back on the environmental and parks groups that filed the original lawsuit to clean up the power plant.

While the Navajo Nation will lose $17 million per year in royalties, the Navajo Nation has projected that gaming could bring in $50 to $60 million per year.

Tony Skrelunas, who works on Native American issues for Flagstaff environmental group Grand Canyon Trust, a plaintiff in the suit, said tribes could net much more than casino dollars by converting to alternative energy and giving tourists and tribe members local places to spend their dollars.

By the Trust's estimates, workers in the Navajo Nation spend $900 million of their paychecks in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Gallup or other large cities and the tribe never sees the income.

Southern California Edison will be eligible for some of up to $35 million in pollution emission credits after the plant closes, credits that can be sold to industrial plants elsewhere in the U.S.

Skrelunas is proposing the company give this money to the tribes.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at or at 913-8607.





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posted 13 september 2005, by louve14