As California’s drought deepens and access to its dwindling water supply is ever more hotly contested, it’s encouraging to remember a significant victory in the fight to protect the state’s water. It culminated April 2, 1998 after nearly a decade of sustained grassroots effort.
CHOICEPOINT: California’s Water and Radioactive Waste
This video shows the beginnings of the successful long grassroots fight to block government plans for a so-called “low level” radioactive waste dump on sacred Native American land inhabited by the endangered desert tortoise and above a pristine aquifer connected to the Colorado River, source of drinking and farming water for much of the Southwest.
CHOICEPOINT was produced in 1993 by James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan. Mary Beth served as the first Coordinator of the Ward Valley Coalition.
Designed as a public education and community organizing tool, it chronicles snippets of many of the original events, actions, tribes and organizations in the emergence of the eventually successful movement. It touches on the anguish of Fort Mojave tribal leader Nora Garcia, the excitement of the critical initial legal victory by BAN Waste Coalition deploying the Endangered Species Act to protect the Desert Tortoise; the determined organizing of Greenpeace; testimonies in the State Legislature; clever use of billboards by Americans for a Safe Future and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s help. Initial resistance proved fertile.
Native American tribes, organizations and individuals continued to build and strengthen the movement. The tribes and activists defended their encampment that boldly blocked government access to the proposed site while pursuing legal and procedural maneuvers. The combination worked. As a recent report puts it, “On April 2, 1999, U.S. Ecology and the state of California lost a federal lawsuit. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt refused to sell the land to the state, and with a final U.S. Court of Appeals judgment the next year, the Ward Valley nuclear dump plan came to an end.” [ A photo gallery follows below. ]
A Ward Valley Gallery
Stills from the film and some of the people and groups that helped form the movement.
[ Roger Herried of the Abalone Alliance has put together a useful timeline here: “The Ward Valley Low Level Waste Nuclear Dump Battle 1990-98” ]