Hualapai Nation may ask for Class I redesignation

The Hualapai Nation doesn't like the air they have been breathing lately.

Long concerned about the quality of air on the 108-mile reservation, the tribe is preparing to ask the Environmental Protection Agency for a Class 1 airshed under federal EPA guidelines.

"Air quality is very important to us - for our health and welfare," said Cisney Havatone, the air program manager at the Hualapai Department of Natural Resources in Peach Springs.

"We are considering asking for redesignation."

Currently the reservation has a Class II designation, but they want it changed to Class 1, the cleanest of all categories.

Class 1 status applies to all national parks and federally funded wilderness areas including the Grand Canyon National Park, currently the closest Class I location to Kingman.

If approved, the new designation would prompt more stringent emission requirements for industries such as power plants.

Havatone said the move is prompted by the recent increase "of baseline emissions within the exterior boundaries of the reservation," due in part to rock mining outside the reservation.

While the tribe has no jurisdiction over the rock mining on private property in Crozier Canyon, Truxton, Peacock Mountain and Hackberry Wash, the dust created by the mining for decorative boulders and rocks has affected the quality of air on the reservation, Havatone said.

"Air emissions should be brought to the attention of the companies.

They should be wetting down the rock mining area so there isn't any fugitive dust," he said.

Havatone added that the drought has also had an affect.

"There's not much you can do when nature has some of its downward cycles," he said.

In order to apply for an air-quality redesignation under the federal Clean Air Act, the tribe was first required to hold a public scoping meeting to get input on the issue.

"All we want is clean air as put forth by Congress," Havatone said.

"They (Congress) have delegated authority to the tribes to instigate and develop our own clean air programs.

This includes looking at what is in the air, such as carbon dioxide sulfur, and other criteria pollutants."

Havatone said the EPA requires a step-by-step procedure to get a Class 1 designation, and the tribe has almost completed those steps.

"The Hualapai nation can now ask the EPA for redesignation," he said.

He said asking for a cleaner air classification is a "separate issue entirely," from recent attempts by the tribe to halt rock mining in the area so that Hualapai cultural experts can look for the cremated remains of Hualapai ancestors.

"We have not submitted a request yet," said Hualapai Department of Natural Resources director Donald Bay.

"That is a decision for the tribal council.

It is still being reviewed by the community and in concert with the EPA.

"We have not submitted a request to the EPA because we are still reviewing public comments."

Pat Gibbons, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said if the Hualapai Nation were to ask for, and receive, the airshed redesignation from the federal EPA, the affect on Kingman would be minimal.

"It would affect potentially, all new and existing major industrial industry within 50 kilometers (31 miles) of the reservation," he said.

"It would increase the scrutiny of emissions of any new industrial sources, and all existing sources would be monitored more closely."

Gibbons said the "source" that would be affected the most if the EPA approved the redesignation is the Chemical Lime Co.

located near the reservation in Nelson.

Beverly Liles, president and CEO of the Kingman Chamber of Commerce said the chamber is aware that the Hualapai Nation has been working on an application for airshed redesignation.

"We are watching the situation," Liles said.

"We need more information about how it would affect Kingman and outlying areas."