A People Betrayed

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"Clearly, it is manipulative and duplicitous," says David Goldberg, director of Arizona State University's School of Justice Studies. "No doubt there was misrepresentation, at the least withholding information to one side that was in some way directly or indirectly made available to the other."

Wilkinson's documentation has convinced at least one key player in the coal rush that Boyden betrayed the Hopi. Former Interior secretary Stewart Udall says Boyden's actions raise serious questions about the lease--particularly the use of groundwater to transport coal to the Mohave Generating Station.

Federal reports show sharp declines in groundwater levels attributed to Peabody's pumping. The Hopi say numerous springs and washes have diminished flows because of Peabody's water pumping. The aquifer is the primary source of water for the Hopi, who have no flowing rivers on their reservation.

The Hopi want Peabody to stop pumping groundwater and obtain water for its slurry line from another source.

Udall says the water issue must be addressed by the current Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, particularly since Boyden had a conflict of interest at the time the lease was first negotiated.

"I'm not [saying] this to put Secretary Babbitt, my friend, on the spot," Udall explains. "I'm doing this because I think the decision is secretarial. . . . If he looked at it and saw the evidence with regard to Mr. Boyden and what he did, then that would weigh pretty heavily on his mind."

Babbitt's office remains silent on the issue.
If Udall's suggestion isn't heeded, legal action by the Hopi appears likely.
"I imagine the tribe and their attorneys are reviewing the situation to see if they can bring a suit to void the lease because it was obtained by fraud," Wilkinson says.

"It is my strong sense that the Hopi would want to consider that suit," he adds.

Hopi tribal attorney Reid Chambers declined to comment on the tribe's legal options.

Boyden, Wilkinson explains, not only had a conflict of interest. He also failed to help the Hopi capitalize on the powerful economic lever the tribe had at its fingertips.

Black Mesa, Wilkinson says, was essential to one of the most important political and economic developments in Arizona history--the Central Arizona Project.

Ever since the idea was hatched in the 1940s, the Central Arizona Project was embraced by Arizona politicians from both sides of the aisle. Arizona wanted to tap its share of Colorado River water that was being used by California.

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court allocated 2.8 million acre-feet of Colorado River water to Arizona each year. To put that water to use, Arizona needed a canal to bring water to the farms, businesses and communities in and around Phoenix and Tucson.

Arizona was in a position to get the funding to build the CAP in the mid-1960s. Stewart Udall was secretary of the Interior and Senator Carl Hayden was the most senior member of the U.S. Senate. Together, they shepherded the project through a reluctant Congress.

"I played an important role in this. I can't deny that. We were frantic to get the CAP through Congress," Udall says.

Several major political and technical problems needed to be solved. Tremendous amounts of electricity would be needed to move as much as 2.2 million acre-feet of water more than 300 miles, over mountains, to central and southern Arizona.

The first plan was to build two hydroelectric power plants in the Grand Canyon. But the Sierra Club launched a massive publicity campaign and thwarted the proposal by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1966. A secondary plan soon emerged that called for a coal-fired power plant to be built near Page.

Udall again played a key role in nurturing the development of the Page power plant on Navajo land. The plant would be fueled by Black Mesa coal.

"Udall interceded saying if they [CAP backers] give up the fight for power plants in the Grand Canyon, he would help them get the Page plant," says historian Alvin Josephy.

"It was a big mistake of Udall's," says Josephy, a close friend of Udall's. "He was allowing people to deal for the Indians without even telling the Indians most of the time what was being dealt away."

Utilities were eager to construct power plants in remote locations so as not to exacerbate pollution problems in the burgeoning urban areas of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Twenty-three Western utilities formed a consortium called WEST Associates to push for development of coal resources on Black Mesa and throughout the Four Corners region, where several highly polluting plants already existed.

Salt River Project soon presented plans to build the Navajo Generating Station near Page on Navajo land.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty