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Water

Posted in Hopi with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by brettvanort

Anyone for 18 before I want to melt in the sun?

Water in the desert southwest.  There has always been little to begin with.  Now there is more but also there is less.  Some of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century created a foundation for the establishment of Phoenix, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, Los Angeles, CA and countless other smaller towns and cities in a region that should by all means be relatively uninhabited.

Page, Arizona, the leaping off point for recreation galore.  Nearby is the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area where Lake Powell is located.  80 miles from the heart of Hopi by the way the crow flies are golf, water skiing, boating, and boozing.

The dam that creates Lake Powell.

Most of these leisure activities exist because of the dam that was created in 1966.  The Colorado river is held here to generate 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of energy per year.  There are ultimate failings with the dam though, and not only because of the water being held back to the Colorado and Little Colorado that run through Navajo and Hopi territory to the south.

The dam has a large amount of risk associated with it, most notably the build up of silt and sediment from the Navajo sandstone that ring the reservoir and line the cliffs that the Colorado has carved over the millenium.  The silt and sediment slowly fills Lake Powell, reducing its capacity.  The lifespan of the dam at this point is by some estimated at 85 to 100 years at which point the breaching of the dam would cause a megatsunami downstream that would crest Hoover dam by over 200 feet.  Because of these risks associated with the dam and the resulting Lake Powell the project was termed “America’s most regretted environmental mistake,” at its completion by the then executive director of the Sierra Club David Brower.

Navajo Generating Station

A few miles outside of Page is another power plant that uses the water from Lake Powell to cool its turbines which allow it to function in the midst of a desert.  The Navajo Generating Station produces 16.5 billion KW per year and releases 19.9 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.  The energy produced by the plant serves over 3 million homes every year in the desert southwest.  The plant also employs nearly 600 Navajo workers when you combine the efforts of those at the Keynata Mine where the coal is mined for use at the plant.  Because of this and the lack well paid jobs in Navajo country, the plant and mine are a slippery slope for those in the Native community to talk about.  In one respect it produces high paid, skilled jobs.  But in another it is digging into the heart of country that to many Native Americans in the region consider sacred.  Talking to Native Americans about this is virtually impossible as an outsider.  On so many occasions I was told that this issue and others involving mining  or energy production are “very sensitive” to the Hopi.

The Navajo Generating Station at Dawn. Navajo Mountain can be seen to the left of the smokstacks, seemingly emerging from the cooling towers.

The Navajo plant began producing power in 1975.  As part of its development the plant required the construction and hanging of nearly 800 miles of 500 kilovolt lines so generated power could reach its intended target of Phoenix, Ariz0na.  Also interesting is how the turbines at Navajo are cooled.  As Lake Powell is a reservoir in a sense without a flow or current to it, the Navajo plant does not expel its waste water back into the body it originated from like most plants situated on a river or coastline.  When this usually happens it will raise the water temperature of that body of water.  In some cases, on the Hudson river, during summer time when flows are lower,  the temperature will raise 24ºF or 13ºC in the vicinity of the plants and down river from them.  How this impacts the ecosystem in that vicinity is hardly seen as it mostly occurs underwater.  But imagine the effect is has on fish and other wildlife in the area.  The Navajo plant, on the other hand, uses cooling towers to disapate the heat generated but in doing so about 30,000 acre feet of water per year evaporates in an area where water is already precious and to the Hopi, considered sacred.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the mine on Black Mesa.  To both the Hopi and Navajo a place considered sacred.

Lake Powell

Posted in Hopi with tags , , , , , , , on January 20, 2010 by brettvanort

Water and sand but do you call this a beach?

I know I was supposed to keep more in tune with stuff and post more this year.  It was a New Years resolution but it’s still hard to do sometimes.  I’ll talk a little more in depth about Lake Powell and my time there this summer in a little bit…thinking about other things though now.

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