Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban Upheld … Judge Rejects Pebble Mine Lawsuit Against EPA … Oregon Denies Nickel Mining Permit to Protect Smith River … East Coast Gets $3.6 Billion to ‘Harden’ Transit Post-Sandy … California Water Year 2014 Ends With Little Rain Forecast
Grand Canyon Uranium Mining Ban Upheld
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 2, 2014 (ENS) – The U.S. Department of the Interior’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across one million acres of public lands adjacent to Grand Canyon will stand, a federal judge in Arizona has ruled.
Judge Campbell of the U.S. District Court for Arizona summarized his Monday ruling dismissing all uranium mining industry claims by stating that the Secretary of the Interior had the authority to “err on the side of caution in protecting a national treasure – Grand Canyon National Park.”
The judge ruled that the ban complied with federal environmental laws and that it was not too large, as plaintiffs had argued. At stake is protection of the aquifers and streams that feed the Colorado River and Grand Canyon from toxic uranium mining waste and depletion.
Arizona’s Havasupai Tribe and a coalition of conservation groups are praising Judge Campbell’s decision.
The Havasupai Tribe, Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association had intervened in the lawsuit filed by mining and uranium-industry trade associations and uranium prospector Gregory Yount.
The tribe and groups helped to defend Interior’s decision to protect Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks, wildlife and vistas from new uranium-mining pollution.
“The Havasupai support the withdrawal of the lands from mining for the protection of our homes and our water. The ruling today by Judge Campbell recognizes the unique and important resources on the lands south of Grand Canyon that are our aboriginal homelands and within the watershed that feeds our springs and flows into our canyon home,” said Havasupai Chairman Rex Tilousi.
The groups and tribe were represented by public-interest law firms Earthjustice and Western Mining Action Project.
“The lands surrounding Grand Canyon are full of natural beauty,” said Earthjustice staff attorney Ted Zukoski. “The life-giving waters and deer, elk, condors, and other wildlife found there deserve protection from the toxic pollution and industrialization threatened by large-scale uranium mining. That is why it was critical to defend these lands from this self-serving attack by the uranium industry.”
In January 2012, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued the 20-year ban that prohibits new mining claims and mine development on existing claims without valid permits. The mining industry lawsuit asserted that the Interior Department’s 700-page evaluation of environmental impacts was inadequate.
“The court’s ruling affirms conclusions by five federal agencies, including scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey,” said Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark. “Uranium mining poses unacceptable risks to Grand Canyon’s water, wildlife, and people. It should be permanently banned from our region.”
Proposals for new mining have prompted protests, litigation, and proposed legislation. Because dozens of new mines threaten to industrialize iconic and sacred natural areas, destroy wildlife habitat, and pollute or deplete aquifers, scientists, tribal and local governments, and businesses have all voiced support for the protections enacted by Interior.
Water utilities in Arizona, California and Nevada have expressed concerns about contamination of the Colorado River if uranium mining is permitted around the Grand Canyon. Some 25 million people in these states rely on water from the Colorado River for drinking and agriculture.
The uranium mining companies have 60 days to appeal Judge Campbell’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and are likely to do so, given their past statements.
“If the mining companies do appeal, we’ll be there to defend the Secretary’s – and Judge Campbell’s – prudent decisions,” said Zukoski.
Judge Rejects Pebble Mine Lawsuit Against EPA
JUNEAU, Alaska, October 2, 2014 (ENS) – A federal judge Friday dismissed a case brought by the Pebble Limited Partnership and State of Alaska against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for exercising its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act for a public review of a mining proposal that would affect the salmon runs in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
Pebble Limited Partnership proposes to build a gold and copper mine that would create a pit nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, the biggest mine of its type in the world, in the headwaters of the world’s greatest salmon fishery.
The EPA, recognizing the threat to the watershed, proposed restrictions on the development of the site that were undergoing public review.
Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska sued the agency, attempting to halt the process midcourse, before a final decision could be made.
Judge H. Russel Holland ruled that the EPA’s public review must be allowed to proceed.
Earthjustice, representing the conservation organization Earthworks, filed a brief in support of the EPA.
“The court ruled for the public today, protecting the right of the people to participate in the process to determine how best to be stewards of the land and water,” said Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. “This is a victory for those who care deeply about the fate of Bristol Bay and its incomparable salmon runs.”
“We’re pleased to see the court give EPA the green light to complete this vital process to protect the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks. “The science and public are solidly behind it.”
Oregon Denies Nickel Mining Permit to Protect Smith River
SALEM, Oregon, October 2, 2014 (ENS) – Oregon Department of Water Resources has denied the application of a London, UK nickel mining company to use water from a tributary of the Wild and Scenic Smith River near the far west corner of the Oregon-California border.
The Smith is the last major river without a dam in Oregon and one of the last free-flowing rivers in the country.
In its Final Order to Deny the Red Flat Nickel Corporation’s application, the Department of Water Resources concluded that the proposed water use of 10 gallons per minute “will impair or be detrimental to the public interest.”
The agency said the water is not available for the proposed use, and that “there is no basis for appropriate conditions that can be applied to mitigate likely impacts to water quality and sensitive, threatened, and endangered species.”
The California-based Environmental Protection Information Center, EPIC, along with a coalition of groups from Oregon and California, spearheaded a campaign to oppose the Red Flat Nickel proposal. Over 3,000 comments were submitted during the 60 day public comment period.
The mining proposal included the use of large quantities of water, road construction, drilling and the possible release of environmentally persistent toxic chemicals and sediment from contaminated retention pools.
EPIC Executive Director Natalynne Delapp said, “This is a good example of inter-state collaboration and community participation. More than 1,200 EPIC members submitted comments on this proposal, sending a clear message to decision-makers that we need to protect this pristine river system.”
The area that was proposed for the mining operation hosts rare botanical resources and threatened coho salmon.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended denial of the mining application as the Smith River is one of two watersheds in California described as “irreplaceable” for the resiliency and biodiversity of salmon.
While it has lost this round, the London mining company can appeal the decision. Of concern to conservationists, Red Flat Nickel has mining claims over thousands of acres of forest lands, including Baldface Creek, in Curry County, Oregon, another tributary of the Smith River.
The Smith River is designated as a National Recreation Area and is used for large institutional water users, irrigators, and domestic uses. In 1998 the State of California issued a Declaration of Fully Appropriated Stream Systems, which effectively removed the Smith from further water appropriation in that state.
East Coast Gets $3.6 Billion to ‘Harden’ Transit Post-Sandy
NEW YORK, New York, October 2, 2014 (ENS) – New York and New Jersey will receive the lion’s share of nearly $3.6 billion in federal disaster relief funds to strengthen public transportation systems in the areas hit by Superstorm Sandy in late October 2012.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Friday that 40 projects have been competitively selected for funding to “harden” transit systems so they can withstand the impact of future natural disasters.
Roughly 90 percent of the funds will be invested in resilience projects in New York and New Jersey, where transit systems sustained the worst of the storm damage. The rest goes to projects in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
“We’ve made great progress rebuilding critical transit connections since Hurricane Sandy, and we want to make sure no one pays for these repairs twice,” said Secretary Foxx.
“While no one can predict the future with certainty, we believe these investments will help to harden transit facilities against future storms that Mother Nature dishes out, supporting President Obama’s call to address climate change now and reducing the risk of service disruptions and future damage to some of the nation’s busiest rail and bus services,” said Foxx.
Secretary Foxx made today’s announcement at Peter Minuit Plaza, between the South Ferry transit station and the Staten Island Ferry landing.
Grant funds will enable the purchase of two new Staten Island ferries capable of withstanding adverse storm and climate change conditions.
He was joined by White House Counselor John Podesta, U.S. Congressman Joseph Crowley, U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks, U.S. Congressman Grace Meng, U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
System-wide resilience projects that will benefit future South Ferry subway riders include sealing street-level vents and manholes and protecting underground pump rooms, circuit breaker houses and other underground facilities that deliver power to the South Ferry subway station and other facilities.
Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Therese McMillan said, “As we have said since the day Hurricane Sandy made landfall nearly two years ago, we share an obligation not only to fully restore transportation systems that millions of riders depend on from New England to New York to D.C., but also to ensure that we can do an even better job of protecting these vulnerable assets in the face of future natural disasters.”
The projects selected for resilience funding were required to demonstrate that they would reduce the risk of damage to public transportation assets inflicted by future natural disasters.
A list of all funded resilience projects is available at http://www.fta.dot.gov/15138_16147.html.
California Water Year 2014 Ends With Little Rain Forecast
SACRAMENTO, California, October 2, 2014 (ENS) – California’s Water Year 2014, which ended Tuesday, is going into the record books as one of California’s driest ever with no promise that the new water year beginning Wednesday will be any wetter.
Reservoirs are low, vast tracts of farmland lie fallow and some communities are scrambling for drinking water.
In January, normally California’s wettest month, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. declared a drought emergency and followed up with statewide water conservation goals.
On September 19, the Governor streamlined the delivery of water to families in dire need.
The Department of Water Resources, DWR, has reduced State Water Project deliveries to a record low five percent of requests while the federal Central Valley Project has reduced deliveries down to zero for some junior rights holders.
Forest fires, brown lawns, food banks, groundwater legislation and water management debates all are results of a deepening drought as the winter months approach without a good reading of whether they will be wet or dry.
“The immediate certainty is that day-to-day conservation – wise, sparing use of water – is essential as we face the possibility of a fourth dry winter,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin.
The Water Year (October 1 – September 30) is ending with less than 60 percent of average precipitation.
And on September 1, the state’s major reservoirs collectively held only 57 percent of average storage for the date, or about 36 percent of capacity.
Cumulative reservoir storage in 1977, to date California’s driest year on record, was about five million acre-feet less than today but the state in that year had millions fewer people.
The Lake Mead reservoir – the largest in the United States – stores Colorado River water for delivery to farms, homes, and businesses in southern Nevada, Arizona, southern California, and northern Mexico.
This summer, the Lake Mead reservoir reached its lowest water level since the lake was first filled during the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.
Located the states of Nevada and Arizona, the lake’s elevation was 1,081 feet. That’s 147 feet below capacity and 133.99 feet below its last peak in 1998.
The DWR said in a statement that recent storms have been encouraging, but have not seriously dented the state’s drought and forecasters can’t accurately predict if the state will get the series of major storms required to break the drought.
Even if the storms arrive, conservation will still be essential to counter the years-long drain on the state’s water supply.
DWR and the Association of California Water Agencies urge all Californians to conserve water by following the advice and tips found at http://SaveOurWater.com.