‘This land is all we have left’: tribes on edge over giant dam proposal near Grand Canyon

‘This land is all we have left’: tribes on edge over giant dam proposal near Grand Canyon

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...
China’s Three Gorges Dam, Largest in World, In Danger of Collapse After Worst Floods in 70 Years

China’s Three Gorges Dam, Largest in World, In Danger of Collapse After Worst Floods in 70 Years

SOURCE: Breaking Israel News DATE: June 26, 2020 SNIP: Weeks of heavy rain have put the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydropower project in the world, in danger of collapse putting 400 million people at risk. The flooding has been described as the worst since 1949 with natural disasters being declared in 24 provinces and municipalities in the southwest and central China, especially in areas near the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam, causing the reservoir’s water level to exceed the flood control line. The water level in China’s massive Three Gorges Reservoir reached 147 meters on Saturday, two meters above the flood warning line. Meanwhile, the inflow increased to 26,500 cubic meters per second from 20,500 cubic meters per second on the previous day. An estimated 400 million people live downstream of the Three Gorges Dam. The Ministry of Water Resources said that 148 rivers had exceeded warning levels. For the first time in history the Chongqing section of the Qijiang River Basin issued a red warning, signifying a flood of more than 10 meters. More than 40,000 people have so far been evacuated. Made of concrete and steel, the dam is 7,661 feet long and the concrete dam wall is 594 feet high above the rock basis. The dam caused considerable controversy when it was built, displacing over a million people and submerging large areas of the Qutang, Wu and Xiling gorges for about 600km. The dam flooded archaeological and cultural sites and caused significant ecological changes including an increased risk of landslides. The dam has been controversial both domestically and abroad...
US demand for clean energy destroying Canada’s environment, indigenous peoples say

US demand for clean energy destroying Canada’s environment, indigenous peoples say

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 22, 2020 SNIP: In a subarctic fjard estuary just a few miles from frozen tundra, Inuit hunter Karl Michelin says he owes his life to the thousands of barking ringed seals that congregate year-round in local waters. The seals’ jet-black, heavily fatted meat is a staple for Michelin, his wife, and their toddler. With food insecurity rampant among the region’s Inuit, neighbors are similarly dependent on seals and other wild-caught food. The town’s isolation makes regular employment opportunities scarce, and food prohibitively expensive to import. But Michelin says his ability to harvest seals is facing a threat from an unexpected quarter: America’s hunger for cheap and renewable electricity. Canada’s indigenous leaders say an unprecedented push for clean energy in the United States is inadvertently causing long-term environmental damage to the traditional hunting grounds on their public lands. Rigolet lies downstream of Muskrat Falls, a $12.7bn dam on the Churchill River, a key drainage point for Labrador’s biggest watershed. Nalcor, the state-owned company that completed Muskrat Falls last year, is already planning Gull Island, another Churchill dam that would produce three times as much electricity, mostly for export to the US. The Nunatsiavut government, which governs 2,700 Inuit in the area, says those dams will disrupt the hydrologic cycle underpinning the ecosystem, and increase exposure to a toxin associated with dam reservoirs. When land is flooded, naturally occurring mercury is unlocked from the soil and vegetation and released into the water column, where it is taken up by bacteria and transformed into methylmercury, a neurotoxin that makes its way up the food chain and bioaccumulates...
Feds reject removal of 4 Lower Snake River dams in key report

Feds reject removal of 4 Lower Snake River dams in key report

SOURCE: Seattle Times DATE: February 27, 2020 SNIP: Years and millions of dollars in the making, a draft federal report on hydroelectric dam operations in the Columbia Basin will not settle the decades long fight over saving imperiled salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Federal agencies found that taking out the dams would “provide a long-term benefit to species that spawn or rear in the mainstem Snake River habitats,” but also would have adverse impacts, including increased power costs, a rise in greenhouse gases and reduced reliability of the electric grid. The report rejects the idea of removing the dams to save endangered or threatened salmon. The removal of the dams has been a rallying cry for advocates of salmon and the endangered southern resident orcas, which rely on Columbia and Snake chinook to survive. But supporters of the dams praised the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) as an important affirmation of their value in a region increasingly placing a premium on renewable electricity. Once the report becomes final, it could face scrutiny in U.S. District Court from salmon advocates who say that the removal of the four Lower Snake dams is a key step in reviving salmon populations and boosting the survival prospects for the endangered southern resident orcas that feed on chinook. A warming climate has made both ocean conditions and the freshwater river environment tougher for the 13 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The four Lower Snake River dams have long been obstacles to salmon that return to spawn in streams and rivers — and to their offspring, which seek to make...
Poorly planned Amazon dam project ‘poses serious threat to life’

Poorly planned Amazon dam project ‘poses serious threat to life’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 8, 2019 SNIP: The biggest hydroelectric project in the Amazon rainforest has a design flaw that poses a “very serious” threat to human life and globally important ecosystems, according to documents and expert testimony received by the Guardian. After decades of resistance and 40bn reais (£8bn) of investment, the world’s fourth biggest hydropower plant is due to have the last of its 18 turbines installed this month, but lower-than-forecast water levels in the dam’s reservoirs have created an unforeseen structural problem in addition to longstanding environmental, social and economic concerns. The Guardian and El País have seen a recent report by Norte Energia which warned that the fall in water levels in recent weeks has exposed a vulnerable section of the Pimental dam wall, which is separate from the barrier housing most of the turbines, to waves that sometimes form during tropical storms or strong winds blowing across the reservoir. The 11 October document – Urgent action to control the level of the Belo Monte HPP Xingu Reservoir – is signed by Norte Energia’s CEO and addressed to the head of the national water agency. It says that water levels fell the previous day to a critical 95.2 metres, which posed a risk that waves “will reach areas of the dam not protected by rock” reinforcements. It asks permission for more water from the intermediate reservoir, a move which would put more pressure on an already strained hydrology. This is forcing the operators to choose between a structural weakening of the 14km-wide compacted-earth barrier and a reallocation of water in the reservoir or on...