Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Indian tribes likely to back settlement for water rights along Little Colorado River

Navajo and Hopi tribal governments are likely to support a settlement with the U.S. federal government that would allow the Navajo Nation to use as much water as they need from the Little Colorado River, right, reports Anne Minard of Indian Country Today Media Network. The Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement would allow the tribes to pull water from a river aquifer that is on the Navajo reservation in parts of Arizona and New Mexico, and close to the Hopi reservation.

Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa and Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly say the settlement "is a boon for future generations," and would secure water supplies for three water projects to deliver drinking water to rural communities on both reservations, something they to which they previously didn't have access. It's a deal they wouldn't likely win through "protracted court battles that are the settlement's alternative," Minard reports.

A group of anti-settlement activists disagrees, saying that the 30 stakeholders in the settlement all had to agree, and they want certain terms met in return for their agreement. In particular, activists are opposed to the extension of the lease for the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz. for 34 years, and the provision that states the Navajo can never sue for past or future water withdrawals from or pollution of the aquifer from coal mining on tribal land. Many activists and locals contend that Peabody Energy and the power plant have already damaged the water beyond repair.

Both the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are faced with dueling bills on which to vote this week: one that supports the settlement, and one that opposes it. At least 22 Navajo chapters have issued resolutions opposing the settlement, and "the number is growing," Minard reports. (Read more)

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