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A Few Environmentally Friendly Solutions to the Navajo and Hopi's Water Crisis

June 27, 2004

Sean Patrick Reily's article "Gathering Clouds" (June 6) is an excellent account of the Hopi and Navajo's grass-roots struggle to save the Navajo aquifer. The importance of the aquifer to our cultural and spiritual life cannot be overstated.

I wish to add a few points: First, the struggle to protect our water from corporate exploitation is not over. Also, the possible closure of Southern California Edison's Mohave Generating Station and the subsequent closure of Black Mesa mine do not necessarily mean an economic meltdown.

Black Mesa Trust has submitted a proposal to construct a 1,000-megawatt solar generating station on native land. The solar project will create more than 1,000 jobs and add $5 to $7 million annually to Hopi tribal revenues while providing much-needed "peaking power" for Southern Californians. The solar generation will require minimal water and is consistent with the Hopi belief that we can develop our resources and enjoy benefits of a modern society without degrading the environment and our culture.

The federal government is backing Peabody Western Coal Co.'s coal slurry project. Does this policy to manage our precious resources so irresponsibly signal an endorsement of slurry operations as part of our national energy policy, or is the government making an exception because it is Indian water that is being abused?

Vernon Masayesva

Executive Director

Black Mesa Trust

Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

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Reily's article was a careless and narrow portrayal of tribal and political activism told largely through the accounts of two people who misrepresent themselves as the voice of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi tribe. Overlooked is an exhaustive and years-long effort by the Navajo, the Hopi, Peabody Energy and Southern California Edison to find solutions that will keep the Mohave station generating with Black Mesa coal while developing a new water transportation source that the tribes support.

An environmentally friendly solution is found in the Coconino aquifer. Further developing this aquifer would preserve low-cost energy, jobs and tribal economies while creating a prime opportunity to bring a new source of water to the Navajo and Hopi. The Times views the looming shutdown of the Black Mesa mine and the Mohave Generating Station as a "victory" for activists by ending use of the Navajo aquifer, a resource that the tribes themselves chose to develop and market.

Fifty years of study by our nation's experts with the U.S. Geological Survey, combined with oversight from other government agencies, continues to show that the Navajo aquifer is healthy and robust. Peabody is proud to use leading-edge, peer-reviewed science to protect and manage the resource.

It is inappropriate to suggest that there is victory in putting citizens and tribal people out of work, destroying essential tribal revenue, and turning out the lights on 1.5 million California families who are grappling with an energy crisis. Peabody is working hard to find common ground with all stakeholders and to avoid or minimize any shutdown of Mohave. If closure occurs, the tragedy is that tribal members will suffer most.

Vic Svec

Vice President

Public and Investor Relations

Peabody Energy

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I am a geologist, and there is a far better approach that should satisfy all parties concerned: Build a second pipeline parallel to the present slurry line. Then separate water from coal at the delivery end and recycle treated water back to the point of origin again and again. Some water may be lost in recycling. Some may be processed for use by the Navajo people. The small increment of loss could be replenished from the Navajo aquifer. Costs for the second pipeline would be shared, excepting the Navajos, by the interested parties.

Carroll L. Hoyt

Hemet

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I find it refreshing when people are reminded of the true costs of goods and services in our modern economy. Although Californians benefit from environmental regulations, sacrifices are often made in nearby countries, states and Indian reservations to sustain our quality of life.

I enjoyed Reily's article, but this is certainly not a last stand for the Navajo. While drilling of the Navajo aquifer will cease in 2005, the Coconino aquifer is being advanced as the replacement source for Peabody's slurry operations. Those who have fought to close the Navajo aquifer are organizing to prevent the Coconino aquifer from facing the same bleak future.

Jordan S. Price

Lake Arrowhead

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