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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Nevadans Join Call for Grand Canyon Mining Moratorium

May 6, 2011

LAS VEGAS - Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including four Nevada groups, have joined in supporting a federal proposal for a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon.

The Obama administration is expected to decide the issue in the next few weeks.

Lynn Hamilton, executive director of Grand Canyon River Guides, says runoff from existing uranium mines already has polluted several rivers, creeks and springs within the national park.

"It's really alarming for people to feel like the areas that they're visiting and recreating in, which they consider to be wilderness areas, are tainted in this way."

The Southern Nevada Water Authority has pressed for limits on new uranium mining along the Grand Canyon's Colorado River watershed, which provides drinking water for 25 million people. Sixty-three members of Congress just penned a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging him to approve the moratorium.

The mining industry maintains that modern techniques will prevent environmental damage. The Environmental Protection Agency's toxic-release data from 2007 finds that the mining industry was responsible for 28 percent of the nation's toxic releases.

Hamilton says Native Americans in Western states have been especially hard hit by water pollution connected to uranium mining.

"It's really a deadly history. In fact, many Native Americans have died from drinking tainted water or using that water to sustain their livestock and crops when it's contaminated."

Hamilton also is concerned about the potential impact on tourism because the uranium mining sites are "right on the doorstep" of Grand Canyon.

"This is an area that draws 5 million visitors each year. It contributes almost $700 million annually to the regional economy."

She says Grand Canyon tourism also supports some 12,000 full-time jobs.

The four Nevada groups that joined the moratorium call are Environment Nevada, Great Basin Resource Watch, Nevada Conservation League>/em> and Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force. A list of the more than 400 groups and businesses that signed on is online at http://ht.ly/4O6CT.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV