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SOURCE: Sierra Nevada Ally
DATE: December 22, 2020
SNIP: Throughout 2020, Pumped Hydro-Storage LLC has proposed three hydro-storage projects on Navajo Nation land near the Grand Canyon, the Salt Trail, Little Colorado River and Big Canyon.

None of the three projects have been approved to start construction, but the potential for hydro-storage on Navajo Nation land has started a debate between those who are against the hydro-storage projects for environmental and land preservation reasons, and those who see it as a source of renewable energy and jobs.

All three projects’ preliminary permits were submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) within a span of seven months. The first being for Salt Trail on May 8, 2019. The most recent and favored project, Big Canyon, was submitted on Mar. 12, 2020. The Navajo Nation has filed a motion to intervene on Big Canyon as recently as July 2020. If one of these projects does go through, it does not eliminate the possibility of the others being approved, although it does lessen the chances.

Pumped Hydro-Storage LLC specializes in building hydro-storage systems that use water as an alternative to batteries for energy storage. Hydro-storage involves storing water in elevated areas, then using gravity to push water down through turbines to produce energy.

At the front of the opposition has been the Center for Biological Diversity, filing motions to intervene in each proposal. Senior public lands campaigner Taylor McKinnon voiced concerns that the company hasn’t considered the impact of reducing water downstream, “the proposals aren’t well thought out, there’s a number of self contradictions. In our view, these were all incomplete proposals.”

Preserving the ecosystem of the Little Colorado River is extremely important, as it is one of the last remaining homes to the endangered humpback chub. The Center for Biological Diversity is concerned that the damming of the Little Colorado could forever change the flow of the river and hasten the chub’s extinction, as well as irreparably harming other endangered species in the area.

Another important aspect of this discussion is Native American land preservation. These projects proposed by Pumped Hydro-Storage LLC would be built on land that belongs to the Navajo Nation and is the aboriginal land of the Hopi people. The industrialization of these places threatens some of the oldest inhabited areas of North America.