by Jim Snyder/
10 October 2004
ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Council’s Resources
Committee appears headed for a showdown with U.S. Sen.
Pete Domenici, R-N.M., over the cost of the $1.2 billion
proposed Navajo water rights settlement agreement on the
San Juan Basin.
committee, headed by Chairman Delegate George Arthur,
wants to keep $372.8 million in federal funding for the
Navajo Indian Irrigation Project in the settlement.
and U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., however, want NIIP
taken out of the settlement to help lower its overall
settlement could stall if both sides dig in their heels
and refuse to budge, Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates said
Oct. 6 in an interview at the Upper Fruitland Chapter
concern is if the Council has NIIP funding in there and
they go forward with it — and Domenici and Bingaman
are against it — (the settlement) may not go anywhere,”
he said. That would be a concern because the Navajo
Nation does not have a fallback position, he added.
settlement, still in negotiations with New Mexico’s
Office of State Engineer, seeks 606,060 acre-feet of
diverted water — 56 percent of the basin’s water
supply in New Mexico — annually for the Navajo Nation.
Of that amount, 508,000 acre-feet of diverted water per
year could be used for NIIP to complete its 110,000-acre
farm south of Farmington. That water could also be used
for industrial and municipal purposes under terms of the
settlement seeks $1.2 billion in federal appropriations
to pay for a Navajo-Gallup Pipeline, to complete the
Navajo Indian Irrigation Project and other Navajo water
first draft was made public by the New Mexico Office of
State Engineer Dec. 5. It was followed by a second draft
July 9. A third version is expected to be released in a
few weeks, Arthur said.
difference of opinion (Subhead please)
reiterated his position Oct. 6 that NIIP would not be
withdrawn from the proposed settlement to help lower its
overall cost — directly challenging Domenici’s
statement the settlement was too expensive for
congressional passage and NIIP should be taken out.
(Navajo water attorney Stanley) Pollack has been given a
directive to maintain the inclusion of NIIP in the
settlement,” Arthur said in an interview at the Upper
Fruitland Chapter House. “The numbers aren’t going
to change,” he added.
spokesman Matt Letourneau restated Domenici’s position
Friday, however, that NIIP should be taken out of the
position is we believe the NIIP project doesn’t need
to be in the (water rights agreement) project,”
Letourneau said in a phone interview from Washington,
adding Bingaman agreed with Domenici. “Our position
has been the same and remains the same.”
wrote Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. in an Aug. 18
letter the settlement was too expensive.
am writing to you to let you know that I cannot support
the current estimates of the federal costs of this
settlement. I am hearing total estimates between $900
million and $1.25 billion and all of it federal money. I
would be less than candid with you if I did not express
my concerns early. I see no way that Congress would be
able to fund these huge amounts of money.”
asks Navajos for help (Subhead please)
then asked the Navajo Nation to help pay part of the
am, therefore, writing to ask for your leadership in
finding ways to have the Navajo Nation contribute a
substantial portion of the estimated settlement costs,”
a former general manager of the Navajo Agricultural
Products Industry which utilizes NIIP water, said at the
time that was unrealistic.
settlement must be passed by Arthur’s committee —
which oversees all land and water issues on the
reservation — before it can go to the 88-member Navajo
Council for a vote.
committee is expected to review a third draft — with
NIIP funding intact — during an Oct. 14 meeting.
Arthur said he would keep the meeting open and not go
into executive session.
date has been set for the full Council to review it and
vote on it.
a strong proponent of getting NIIP finished, added last
week, “It’s interesting he (Domenici) is concerned
about cost after all this time. If the federal
government was serious about the cost (of NIIP) they
could have completed it 40 years ago for the same
dollars as the Chama Diversion.”
added he would not remove NIIP from the settlement
without a guarantee from Congress it would still be
funded and completed in the near future.
it’s taken out of the settlement my concern is how
will Navajos be assured NIIP will be completed?”
is in charge? (Subhead please)
Navajo Nation is sending conflicting messages to its
congressional delegation about who is in charge at the
Navajo Nation, Bates said — because the Navajo
legislative branch is seeking full federal funding to
complete NIIP while the executive branch is saying
private funding could be an option.
met with Domenici and Bingaman in late September in
Washington and had a “positive” discussion,
according to a Navajo Nation Washington Office news
release. No details of the meetings were released.
said, however, that Shirley told Domenici in a letter
some private funding could be used to complete NIIP.
the (Navajo) president’s side of the fence there’s
going to be a drastic difference of thought,” Arthur
said. “The Council has stated to keep NIIP in the
settlement discussions. The president has faded from
that position and has taken an absolute contrary
would not publicly confirm or deny his position on NIIP
within the settlement Friday.
Shirley is working with all involved to come up with a
mutual position to benefit the Navajo Nation in the
settlement,” Shirley spokeswoman Deana Jackson said,
adding the settlement, once approved by the Council,
would require his signature before being sent to
Bitzill Navajo grassroots co-leader Norman Patrick Brown
said last month he was also concerned about the
different Navajo positions.
in charge?” he asked.
Navajo Water Commission, the Resources Committee, the
president’s office, the speaker’s office and the
Navajo Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee
all proclaim to be in charge of the settlement, he said,
adding, “ Everybody wants to be at the front.”
added Friday there has been a lot of discussion on both
sides and that he did not know who Arthur or his
Jim Snyder: email@example.com