Opinion

Proposed Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Would Halt New Uranium Mines, Protect Water

Growing up in Arizona, I remember learning in grade school about the five “C’s” of Arizona’s economy (Cattle, Copper, Citrus, Climate, and Cotton). Oddly enough I didn’t learn much about the resource that makes it all possible until I reached college. It was there that I began to learn about water, and I began to appreciate how important our water is since we live in such a dry state. Although the five “C’s” are no longer central to Arizona’s economy, water is and always has been.

After earning a degree in geology from Arizona State University, I was fortunate to spend 14 years working as a hydrologist for a federal agency. This tenure included working in Grand Canyon on multiple occasions. Currently I work in water services for a large municipality in Arizona and have been an active member of the Arizona hydrologic community for over 20 years. My years of hydrology training and experience in Arizona inform my support for the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.

The proposed Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument would offer increased protections to national public land already owned and managed by the federal government. The designation would not affect grazing, hunting, tourism or recreation, and would make permanent a 20-year halt on new uranium mines that former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar put in place in 2012.

As a native Arizonan working on water issues, and after years of living in the ever-growing suburbs of Phoenix, I see alarming things every day. I see that the Colorado River and states like Arizona that depend on it are facing a new normal of drought, increasing temperatures and growing population. I see a fundamental problem on the Colorado River — demand for its water outstrips supply. I see a need for water conservation, collaboration and innovation.

I also see members of the Navajo Nation living in water poverty. When they do have access to running water, it can be contaminated by uranium — still, in 2016, decades after many of these mines have been abandoned. Mining companies tell us that mining today is cleaner than it was 30 years ago. That is true, yet dangers remain. All members of the Navajo Nation and other tribes need access to safe, clean, healthy water.

The tribes have been clear. They are demanding no more uranium mining. Representatives from the Havasupai, Hopi, and Zuni tribes, and the Hualapai Nation and the Navajo Nation have all called for the protection that the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument could provide.

Water connects and sustains people, places, and wildlife. The Grand Canyon’s water comes from a vast watershed connected via streams and springs, and groundwater wells and underground rivers. Uranium contamination continues to be an issue north of the park. This contamination exists within the watershed and threatens to pollute the park’s waterways and harms wildlife. Establishing the 1.7-million-acre Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument would make sure we protect our state’s crown jewel, the Grand Canyon National Park, for future generations and for our vibrant tourism industry.

Importantly, the proposed monument would also help to protect Arizona’s water resources for generations to come. Join me in supporting this monument — an innovative investment in Arizona’s secure water future.

 

Christie O’Day has 25 years of professional and technical experience in hydrology, hydrogeology, environmental management and water quality. She is a native Arizonan who has seen the Grand Canyon from many different angles, many different times.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Submission guidelines can be found here.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!