Hopi Indians Win Water Dispute with Peabody

Article excerpt

The Hopi Indians of Arizona won a victory in their water war with Peabody Coal Co. Tuesday when Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt authorized construction of a new pipeline to bring water to Peabody's Black Mesa strip mine.

The Indians have contended that St. Louis-based Peabody is draining an aquifer beneath tribal land by pumping a billion gallons of water yearly for mining.

The Interior Department held up a long-term mining permit Peabody had requested and said that the company must contribute to building the pipeline, which will carry water from Lake Powell, 50 miles away, to the mine and to Indian communities. Peabody operates the Black Mesa mine, which is on the Navajo reservation, under a short-term permit.

"Peabody must be a major part of the project because it will benefit by receiving a life-of-the-mine permit and development of a new, secure water supply," Babbitt wrote this week.

But in laying out a framework for negotiations to build the pipeline, Babbitt suggested a smaller version than the Hopis had wanted. He said that everyone who benefits from it - not just Peabody Coal - will pay, and he committed the federal government to financing part of the project and to operating the pipeline when it is built. …