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SOURCE: The Guardian

DATE: August 12, 2020

SNIP: Phoenix-based Pumped Hydro Storage LLC has received a preliminary permit from federal regulators for its Big Canyon Pumped Storage Project – a string of four huge dams near the Little Colorado River, along with reservoirs and a power-generation facility. The preliminary permit does not allow construction, but it gives Pumped Hydro priority in getting a license to build.

The project is the third Pumped Hydro has proposed in the Big Canyon region – the two previous ones received major pushback from tribes and environmentalists. If built, it would function as both a battery and station for generating up to 7,900 gigawatt-hours of electricity. It would pump groundwater up into four reservoirs, one of which would flood Big Canyon. That water would be stored as potential power, ready to be unleashed down canyons, through generators and toward the Little Colorado River when electricity is needed [sic… electricity is never “needed” only “wanted”].

The environmental and cultural costs of this proposal would be major. Tribal members and environmentalists say the project would flood several miles of canyons sacred to the Navajo; risk damaging cultural sites for several tribes; draw vast amounts of critical groundwater; potentially harm habitats for plants and animals, including some endangered species; and risk adverse effects for waterways leading into the Grand Canyon.

Any electricity the Big Canyon project generates would go off the reservation, probably to the bigger cities in southern Arizona. Opposition from tribal and environmental organizations is fierce.

“This land is all we have left. And yeah, we’re gonna fight. I’m gonna fight,” said Rita Bilagody, a Navajo activist who lives near Tuba City, Arizona, about 20 miles from the proposed dams. “I can’t even express my outrage at the things they think they can do without asking us, telling us, informing us – letting us make our own decisions.”

In addition to the Navajo, the department noted at least 10 tribes – including the Havasupai tribe, Hopi tribe, Hualapai tribe, Kaibab band of Paiute Indians, Las Vegas tribe of Paiute Indians, Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, Paiute Indian tribe of Utah, San Juan Southern Paiute tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation and Pueblo of Zuni – would be affected, whether directly or through the project’s impact on the region’s water.

Sovereignty is at the core of the fight against the Big Canyon project. Late last month, the Navajo Nation government said as much in a notice of intervention filing in Pumped Hydro Storage’s preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or Ferc, the US regulatory authority at this point in the process.

Stanley Pollack, an attorney for the Nation, wrote that the Big Canyon project could adversely affect water, land, wildlife and cultural resources, all of which are on Navajo land, and that the tribal government “has not authorized the permit holder to enter upon the lands of the Navajo Nation or to use its waters”.

Bilagody, a lifelong activist, sees one issue at the bottom of it all: “The arrogance of the white man. They feel like they can do anything and everything that they’d like to do.”

Ask Steve Irwin, one of the developers, if there’s a concern with building four giant dams, up to 10,000ft long or 400ft high, and he sees few issues.

“Where this is located, hardly anybody will see it,” he said. “It’ll be in a hole.”

[Ed Note: a “hole” that is home to countless species, a “hole” — actually an incredibly beautiful canyon with a river running through it — that has the right to exist, a river that has the right to exist… this language of “a hole” that no one can “see” makes me so angry I want to explode.]