No power plant aids N-aquifer
Black Mesa Environmental Impact Statement
to be reactivated
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK — The Black Mesa Environmental Impact Statement is being reactivated, however the preferred alternative, which includes the C-aquifer pipeline, reportedly will be eliminated.
John Stucker, senior mining engineer for the Navajo Nation Minerals Department’s Surface Mining Program, said Friday that with the closure of Mohave Generating Station, Alternative A is no longer necessary, because the coal slurry pipeline that transported coal from Black Mesa Mine to Mohave is no longer operating.
“As far as we know, there is not a proponent for the Mohave Generating Station, which the Black Mesa project was geared for.”
Because the coal slurry pipeline is not operating, a significant amount of water has not been pumped out of the N-aquifer since 2005.
“What’s good about that is that all the studies that were done on the modeling of the N-aquifer are proving to be correct. The aquifer is coming up,” Stucker said. “I’ve seen the reports that have been done by USGS and others, and there is a definite rebound of the N-aquifer.”
Black Mesa Delegate Amos Johnson said that report “really shows that there was an impact from the mining operation, which they flatly denied every time.”
Beth Sutton of Peabody Western Coal Co., had not responded to questions this morning and OSM officials were out of the office on Friday.
“The preferred alternative for the Black Mesa EIS a year and a half ago was to build a water delivery system in Leupp, take some of that water to the mine, develop southern Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation water systems off of that, mine some additional coal on the Black Mesa Mine, and deliver the coal via the coal slurry pipeline to Mohave Generating Station,” Stucker said.
“There was a coal wash plant that was going to be built, and a new right of way that was going to go across Hopiland. Well, that stuff is all nil. As far as we know, it’s not going to happen. The only thing right now is to maintain the existing mining operation in Kayenta, which is right next door to Black Mesa, to deliver coal to Navajo Generating Station.”
The proposed C-aquifer system was one of the alternative water sources to replace pumping by Peabody Western Coal Co. of pristine N-aquifer water. Alternative B, which Stucker said will become the new preferred alternative, does draw some water from the N-aquifer.
Under Alternative B, 18,984 acres associated with the Black Mesa mining operation, including 127 acres for the coal-haul road, would be incorporated into the expanded permit area.
The Kayenta operation would continue through 2026 and use an average of 1,236 acre-feet per year of N-aquifer water through 2025; up to 500 af/yr for reclamation and public use from 2026 to 2028, and up to 444 af/yr for post reclamation maintenance and public use from 2029 to 2038.
The wells would be transferred to the tribe once Peabody completes reclamation and relinquishes the leases.
Calvin Johnson of Leupp, a member of “C-Aquifer for Dine,” said, “The Black Mesa Project EIS should be redone because Peabody is asking for Alternative B. When you do a proposal and when figures or plans change, you have to redo everything.”
Johnson said there is a proposal to use one of Peabody’s wells for the Manymules Water Supply Project. “It’s going to be a community, domestic water supply that’s going to come in four phases. Right now I have a legislation that’s going to go to the Council requesting $4.4 million to at least get it started for phase one.”
The other phases would be funded by Office of Environmental Health or Indian Health Service, he said. “The concern I have is if Peabody is just going to go back to using the well, then that’s going to be a problem with finishing this project.”
Stucker said he was informed by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining that they are going to try to finalize the EIS by the end of the year. “They found out about this on Wednesday, that they were going to complete it, but they do not have a plan yet.”
Under Alternative B, the Black Mesa mining operation, coal-slurry preparation plant, and coal-slurry pipeline would not resume operations. The coal-washing facility and the C-aquifer water supply system would not be constructed.
Stucker said Black Mesa Pipeline Co., has an office building and other facilities that the Nation might want left in place, thought tribal officials have not yet approached BMPC about it. “The only problem there is that lease area that they have is surrounded by the Peabody lease, so access is what we will have to work out. It shouldn’t be a big deal,.”