Navajo Nation officials on Tuesday filed new opposition to a plan to pump groundwater from near the Little Colorado River and flood hundreds of acres of tribal land to generate electricity for cities in the Southwest.

But the developer is protesting, saying he should be granted immunity from a new federal policy that requires tribal approval for such projects within reservation boundaries.


Pumped Hydro Storage LLC from Phoenix proposes to locate a pump storage hydropower plant near Little Colorado River named Big Canyon Pumped Storage Project. The proposed project is shown on this map in relation to Navajo East Rim. (Map courtesy of Grand Canyon Trust.)

Justice Department officials for the tribe’s Water Rights and Natural Resources divisions stated in a “supplemental comments” filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that the project would “likely adversely impact the land, water, wildlife and cultural resources of the Navajo Nation.”

FERC officials already had shot down several other similar projects proposed on the Navajo Nation. But, the proposed Big Canyon Pumped Storage Project somehow had managed to continue moving forward, with federal officials allowing until March 21 for the public to comment on it.

Steve W. Irwin, manager of Pumped Hydro Storage, LLC — the company behind the Big Canyon project –says the Navajo Nation’s objects do not matter: In a March 14 letter to FERC, he wrote: “Because we applied for the preliminary permit in 2020 and this new policy came into effect in 2024, we feel our preliminary permit should be granted, as our application preceded the new policy by many years.”

Irwin has said the project will benefit local people by bringing water and power to the area; however, land traditionally used by Navajos for livestock grazing and homes would be submerged by the project’s massive water storage above ground.

Navajo Nation officials previously obtained a tribal injunction in 2020 in Page, Ariz., to prevent Irwin from moving forward with the project.

A PDF of the Navajo Nation’s latest comments can be downloaded from the FERC website at: