Federal Officials Approve Preliminary Permits For Little Colorado River Dam Proposals

May 21, 2020

Federal officials have issued preliminary permits for two hydro-storage proposals on the Little Colorado River. The projects would include four dams and four reservoirs east of Grand Canyon National Park. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Two hydro-storage proposals near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers would include four dams and four reservoirs in an area that includes tribal sacred sites and endangered species.
Credit Ryan Heinsius / KNAU

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval doesn’t allow the Phoenix-based company Pumped Hydro Storage to enter any lands or create ground disturbance. But it does let the company conduct feasibility studies for the combined 4,700-megawatt projects that would include dams up to 240 feet high across the Little Colorado River on the Navajo Nation.

Groups like the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity say it would destroy the Little Colorado’s ecosystem and the habitat of the endangered humpback chub. The U.S. Interior Department has also objected.

In addition, the proposal would flood the Hopi Tribe’s place of emergence, which is one of their most sacred sites.

Federal officials say the objections to the project will be considered if the company applies for a permit to build.