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Preliminary Permit Accepted For Two Dams On Little Colorado River

Bob Bordasch

Federal officials have accepted a preliminary permit for two dams to be built on the Little Colorado River. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s part of a proposed hydro-storage facility located on the Navajo Nation.

The proposal by the Phoenix-based company Pumped Hydro Storage, would include one 240-foot dam and a second 140-foot dam along with two reservoirs and other generating equipment. It would store and release water for energy with a 1,500-megawatt capacity. The project is proposed for canyon country near the Salt Canyon Trail east of the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the preliminary permit last week. It doesn’t allow the company to disturb any lands or enter the area without owner permission. Steve Irwin with Pumped Hydro Storage says the project will create jobs and energy capacity as the Navajo Generating Station prepares to close.

But the proposal has alarmed local conservationists. Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity says it’s potentially the biggest threat to the greater Grand Canyon area in many years, and could have devastating impacts on endangered species and other environmental and cultural resources.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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