Groups Tell Congress to Protect Grand Canyon from Mining, Dam Operations and Other Environmental Threats

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   April 8, 2010
Contact:   Kathleen O'Neil, National Parks Conservation Association, 202.384.8894(c) Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust, 928.774.7488(office), 928.890.7515
Stacey Hamburg, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Chapter, 928.774.6514
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928.310.6713
Loretta Jackson-Kelly, Hualapai Nation 928.380.4429 Carletta Tilousi, Havasupai Tribal Council 480.296.3984


Groups Tell Congress to Protect Grand Canyon from Mining, Dam Operations and Other Environmental Threats

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK—Today, representatives from the Havasupai and Hualapai Tribes will join representatives of conservation groups in voicing united support of legislation proposed by Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act, that would permanently protect Grand Canyon watersheds from new uranium mining. The legislation will be discussed as one part of a two-part joint congressional hearing tomorrow at Grand Canyon National Park; the hearing will also address impacts of Glen Canyon Dam to the Colorado River and endangered native fish.

Spikes in uranium prices have caused thousands of new uranium claims, dozens of proposed exploration drilling projects, and proposals to reopen old uranium mines adjacent to Grand Canyon. Renewed uranium development threatens to degrade wildlife habitat and industrialize now-wild and iconic landscapes bordering the park. Uranium mining also threatens to deplete and contaminate aquifers that discharge into Grand CanyonNational Parkand the Colorado River. As a result of past mining, the National Park Service now warns against drinking from several creeks in the canyon exhibiting elevated uranium levels. 

Water levels in theColorado River, the force that created the canyon, are also a concern. This desert river is the primary source of water for populations in the Southwest andSouthern California, and has been a focus of political, legal, and economic maneuvers for almost a century. However, the dams that make that possible have profoundly changed the flows, sediment dynamics, and the water temperature of the river through the canyon. This has substantially altered the natural condition of theGrand Canyon, and threatens native species and hundreds of archeological sites.

 

Recognition of these consequences led to the passage of the landmark Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992 and the implementation of three high flow experiments and monitoring of Glen Canyon Dam’s operations. Despite these steps, dam operations continue to degrade the park’s features and habitat. It will take steady flows that allow sediment to be replenished and a commitment to implementing adaptive management based on results of research.

 

Testimony will also comment on the continuing lack, after 20 years of work, of rules that control noise in the canyon from commercial air tours and overflights, as well as the lack of funding for the park service to properly maintain and protect the park, which attracts about 4.5 million visitors per year.

The testimony marks years of work on these issues by the participating groups. The proposal to develop uranium mining in particular has provoked litigation, public protests, and statements of concern and opposition from scientists; city officials; county officials, including Coconino County; former Governor Janet Napolitano; state representatives; the Navajo Nation, and the Kaibab Paiute, Hopi, Hualapai and Havasupai tribes; the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; and the Southern Nevada Water Authority, among others. Statewide polling conducted by Public Opinion Strategies shows overwhelming public support for protecting the lands near Grand Canyon from mining activities; Arizonans support protecting theGrand Canyon area from uranium mining by a two-to-one margin. 

The Grand Canyon Watersheds Protection Act would permanently protect one million acres of public lands surroundingGrand CanyonNational Parkby prohibiting new mining claims and the exploration and mining of existing claims for which valid existing rights have not been established. The public lands protected by the bill—the Tusayan Ranger District of the Kaibab National Forest south of the Canyon, the Kanab Creek watershed north of the Park, and House Rock Valley, between Grand Canyon National Park and Vermilion Cliffs National Monument—are the last remaining public lands surrounding Grand Canyon National Park not protected from new uranium development.

In a similar move, the Interior Department in July 2009 enacted a one-million-acre land segregation order, now in force, and proposed a 20-year mineral withdrawal to prohibit new mining claims and the exploration and mining of existing claims for which valid existing rights have not been established.   Despite that segregation, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has allowed mining to proceed at the long-closed Arizona 1 Mine just north of Grand Canyon. The BLM’s failure to update environmental reviews from 1988 prior to allowing the mine to re-open provoked litigation in the fall of 2009 from the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and Sierra Club.  Today those same groups filed a motion in federal court inPhoenix,Arizona, for a preliminary injunction to halt mining activities.

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Electronic Press Packet (click links for documents)

Grand Canyon Uranium Map

Grand Canyon Uranium Factsheet

Grand Canyon Uranium Action Timeline

 

Hearing Testimony

Bill Hedden, Grand Canyon Trust 

Dave Nimkin, National Parks Conservation Association

Nicki Cooley           

           

Past Grand Canyon Uranium Testimony

Testimony of Dr. Larry Stevens

Testimony of Dr. Abe Springer

Testimony of Robert Arnberger, former Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent

Testimony of Roger Clark

Testimony of Chris Shuey

Supplement to Chris Shuey Testimony

Testimony of Dr. David Kraemer

 

Grand Canyon Watershed Administrative and Legislative Mineral Withdrawals

June 2008 Congressional Emergency Withdrawal

 

Grand Canyon Uranium Litigation

Lawsuit Halts Uranium Exploration Near Grand Canyon

Lawsuit Challenges Bureau of Land Management Violation of Congressional Withdrawal

Lawsuit Challenges Bureau of Land Management Re-opening of Arizona 1 Mine

Lawsuit Challenges Bureau of Land Management’s Unlawful Withholding of Public Uranium Records

 

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