Little Colorado River threatened by dams

The Little Colorado River is the focus of two pumped hydro storage power plant proposals that have met with resistance from stakeholders. The proposal creates a total of four dams, adjacent to the Little Colorado River and through a closed loop system would generate approximately 11,800 gigawatt-hours of average annual generation of electricity. This electricity would be then sent by transmission line to either Mohave County, Yavapai County, or Clark County, Nevada.

Proposed project map. Credit: Center for Biological Diversity

The crux of the issue lies in the location of the dams. The project would dam the Little Colorado River just a half-mile from Grand Canyon National Park. Indigenous tribes are concerned that multiple cultural locations would be underwater or unreachable if this project goes through. Additionally, The Hopi tribe’s location of emergence into this world would be threatened. The project would also destroy the famous turquoise water that can be found near the confluence of the Colorado River and the Little Colorado.

Because the proposed projects are in important and unique regions of the Colorado River basin or near the Grand Canyon, conservation groups, environmental groups, and native American tribes are raising numerous concerns. Just days ago, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a motion to intervene with the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to deny the preliminary permits.

The American Rivers organization, who has also filed a motion to intervene, has identified three major areas where the filing for the project comes up short: The application does not identify any source of funding, does not show adequate consideration for indigenous tribes, a number of which hold the Grand Canyon area to be sacred, and does not show adequate consideration for the threatened Humpback Chub.

Construction of either project would fast-tract the humpback chub toward extinction while wasting millions of dollars and years of work invested in the recovery of these endangered fish”, said Taylor McKinnon, of the Center for Biological Diversity in their press release regarding the motion to intervene.

From the Motion to Intervene: “If either or both the proposed…Project(s) are constructed and operated they would decimate this population of humpback chub and also impact the surrounding intact wildlands that provide habitat for a suite of species including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and the threatened Mexican spotted owl.”

Federally, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s The Hydropower Vision report estimates that domestic hydropower could grow from 101 gigawatts to nearly 150 gigawatts of combined electricity generation and storage capacity by 2050. The proposed project is not tied to solar power generation but there is the potential of using solar in the future, to offset some of the energy input needed to run the process.

Proposed project map. Credit: Center for Biological Diversity


Contribute now to support the meteor and independent journalism on the Colorado Plateau.