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FERC grants two Preliminary Permits for two dams in gorge of Little Colorado River and two dams on rim's bench

September 26, 2019
by John Weisheit

Graphic courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust
Graphic courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust

In the Spring of 2019 a start-up company based out of Phoenix, Arizona prepared two permits with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build two dams/reservoirs in the gorge of the Little Colorado River (LCR) and two dams/reservoirs on the flat rim tops of this high plateau. These lands belong to the Navajo Nation and are also adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park.

Permit applications such as this are part of a nationwide rush to file federal permit applications with FERC for what is known as a pumped storage hydroelectricity facility. During a 24-hour day, the sale of electricity increases when high demands are placed upon the power grid (typically in the morning and during the working hours of daylight).

If a landscape can accommodate two dam sites within a few miles of each other, and the dam locations have a large enough elevation difference between them, the location has pumped storage potential. During high demand, the water is released from the high reservoir to the low reservoir and the gravity fall of this water will then spin generators at a power station, instantly. When demand is low (typically at night while people are sleeping), the reservoir water is then mechanically pumped uphill from the low reservoir and back into the high reservoir.

At the Little Colorado River Gorge, the Phoenix company decided to file two permits for back-to-back pump storage facilities in a stair step fashion. One set of dams, one low and one high, would be paired with another set of dams upstream, again one low and one high. Two giant reservoirs would be built up on the rim of the gorge and two giant reservoirs would flood the gorge below.

The most downstream dam in the gorge would inundate a sacred site of the Hopi Tribe. This project would also violate the mandates of the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992, because the proposed reservoirs would cut off the flow of spring water that maintain the critical habitat of the endangered humpback chub. The reservoirs in the gorge would greatly diminish much-needed sediment and nutrient inputs from the LCR watershed, which are vital to the restoration of the riparian corridor. This ecosystem was originally compromised by the construction and operations of Glen Canyon Dam, which is located 75 river miles above the mouth of the LCR.

Click here to read this story by Felicia Fonseca of The Associated Press



The 60-day comment period closes at the end of the business day (Eastern Time) on November 22, 2019.

  • NOTE: This Federal Notice is not entirely accurate and should be revised.

Applicant Contact: Steve Irwin, Pumped Hydro Storage, LLC, 6514 S 41st Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85041; phone: (602) 696-3608; eMail: Swirwin7@gmail.com

FERC Contact: Tim Konnert; phone: (202) 502-6359.

Deadline for filing comments, motions to intervene, competing applications (without notices of intent), or notices of intent to file competing applications: 60 days from the issuance of this notice (9/23/2019). Competing applications and notices of intent must meet the requirements of 18 CFR 4.36 (/select- citation/2019/09/23/18-CFR-4.36).

The Commission strongly encourages electronic filing. Please file comments, motions to intervene, notices of intent, and competing applications using the Commission's eFiling system at (http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling.asp). Commenters can submit brief comments up to 6,000 characters, without prior registration, using the eComment system at (http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/ecomment.asp). DATED: September 17, 2019. You must include your name and contact information at the end of your comments.

For assistance, please contact

In lieu of electronic filing, please send a paper copy to:

Secretary, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20426

The first page of any filing should include docket number P-14992 & P-14994

More information about this project, including a copy of the application, can be viewed or printed on the eLibrary link of the Commission's website at (http://www.ferc.gov/docs-filing/elibrary.asp). Enter the docket number (P-14992 or P-14994) in the docket number field to access the document. For assistance, contact FERC Online Support.


To comment, citizens can visit:

When youre ready to submit to FERC, here's how you do that:

  • Go to ferc.gov/docs-filing/efiling.asp
  • Click the orange eRegister button.
  • Fill out your personal information, including an email address (which serves as your username), and create a password.
  • At the bottom, select Next by the sentence that begins Proceed to full registration.
  • As prompted, fill out your address information and another company contact (or file as a private individual), and click on Done.
  • FERC will send an email from eRegistrationProd@ferc.gov to the email address provided.
  • In the email from FERC, click the link that reads to confirm your email address and complete your registration to complete the registration and take you back to FERCs online portal.
  • Below your personal information and under the Enter Docket box, type in P-14992 or P-14994.
  • Click the blue plus sign to the right of the first entry that shows up.
  • Add a comment (fewer than 6,000 characters) in the box directly below (to right of Comment).
  • Select Send Comment to submit.

If this is all too confusing, just type, print and mail your comments to
the following address:

Kimberly D. Bose,Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 1st Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20426
RE: P-14992 & P-14994



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