Lake Powell Protest at Antelope Point – 6/14/02
BY TODD GLASENAPP
Arizona Daily Sun Correspondent
PAGE -- An environmentalist group that wants to see the end of Lake Powell made its first Arizona stops Friday on its five-day "Sedimental Journey."
Moab, Utah-based Living Rivers brought a dump truck, director Owen Lammers, three singers and the president of the Dine Medicinemens Association.
The presentations at Antelope Point and Glen Canyon Dam were quite similar to the one conducted by Living Rivers' predecessor, Glen Canyon Action Network, at the dam in March 2000.
This time, Living Rivers primarily wants to call attention to sediment buildup above the dam, robbing the Grand Canyon of precious nutrients and altering the canyon ecosystem. The group is driving a dump truck, destined for the other side of the dam.
But the National Park Service said Living Rivers needed a permit to redeposit the three tons of sand, drawn from sand bars at a kickoff rally Thursday night in Moab.
The tour, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, continues today with a stop at Lees Ferry and tomorrow's program at the South Rim tomorrow. The 700-mile trip concludes with Monday's rally at Hoover Dam.
Criticism of the proposed $75 million resort-marina was the main topic of the day's first stop, at Antelope Point, a few miles east of Page on Lake Powell.
Only half a dozen Living Rivers members and about 25 curious onlookers -- most of them law enforcement officers and reporters -- attended the shadeless program near the closed Antelope Point boat launch in 95-degree heat. Lammers expects much bigger turnouts as the tour progresses.
Paul Ostapuk, a spokesman for Page-based Friends of Lake Powell, didn't think much of the program.
"The protest was a non-event," Ostapuk said. "About 15 protestors were present and all of them were out-of-town staff. It is important to note that not a single person locally, native or otherwise, protested the proposed marina and none of the speakers were official representatives of the Navajo Nation."
Lammers has said Living Rivers is considering a lawsuit over Antelope Point, citing an "only cursory enviornmental analysis" by the park service in the way of an environmental assessment.
The park service and Navajo Nation have retained URS Corp. of Phoenix to prepare an environmental assessment. The assessment is expected to be released this summer with construction beginning not long after.
Development in the area began with a launch ramp three years ago. But dropping lake levels have rendered the ramp useless this summer.
Lammers suggested that the Navajo Nation take on nearby Wahweap Marina and abandon plans for the one at Antelope Point to avoid disrupting sacred sites.
A water lobbyist to the Navajo Nation Council, Max Goldtooth, attributed the drought to dams, saying that offerings are being blocked in their journey to the ocean. He cited traditional beliefs.
"White Shell Mother lives in the ocean," he said. "She's willing to bless us with rain. But the offering never comes. That's why we have a drought."
"These places here, these sacred cliffs, you can hear the echoes of those people in them," Goldtooth said.
"We have polluted the water and sky," said Thomas Morris, president of the Dine Medicinemens Association. "Mother Earth has been damaged...When are we going to learn the people are destroying the healthy sacredness?"
Friends of Lake Powell's Ostapuk observed, "If Living Rivers really cared about the Navajo people, they would have come here today with water in their trucks and spent the day hauling water to drought-stricken Navajo water supply systems."
Watching from a distance was Thomas Boyd, acting director of the Navajo Nation Tourism Department. Boyd declined an invitation to take the microphone.
Projections supplied by Boyd indicate the resort-marina will provide 150 permanent jobs, 175 temporary positions, $10 million in approximate annual payroll, $30 million in annual community economic impact and other opportunities for Navajo-owned small businesses.