Lightning forces NAU student to end treetop protest

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James Kennedy made a tree his temporary home to halt the construction of a 14-mile pipeline near Flagstaff. By Jennifer Thomas James Kennedy made a tree his temporary home to halt the construction of a 14-mile pipeline near Flagstaff. By Jennifer Thomas
James Kennedy made a tree his temporary home to halt the construction of a 14-mile pipeline near Flagstaff. By Jennifer Thomas James Kennedy made a tree his temporary home to halt the construction of a 14-mile pipeline near Flagstaff. By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- A man who was sitting in a 75-foot-tall pine tree to protest the construction of a pipeline to bring reclaimed water to Arizona Snowbowl ended his protest due to lightning.

James Kennedy had to perform an emergency descent on his backup rappel line early Thursday morning to avoid being struck by lightning, according to a statement from Protect the Peaks.

"Having to come down tonight only makes my resolve to continue working for clean water and healthy communities that much stronger," Kennedy said. "I encourage everyone to take direct action in safe and creative ways so our voices continue to be heard.”

The Northern Arizona University student began his "tree-sit" Monday morning to block construction of a 14-mile pipeline that would transport reclaimed water from Flagstaff's sewage treatment plant to Snowbowl for snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks.

Kennedy and other protesters said the reclaimed water may contain antibiotic-resistant genes.

"This is not a struggle we can afford to lose," Kennedy said. "With all the current research on the dangers of treated sewage effluent, we cannot continue to allow the city to experiment on our children."

Flagstaff police planned to arrest the 26-year-old when he ended his protest, but Kennedy said no officers were on scene when he rappelled down at about 1:30 a.m.