TUBA CITY, ARIZONA – Senators Jon Kyl, Arizona – R, and John McCain, Arizona – R, will be in Tuba City on Thursday, April 5, 2012, to persuade Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal leaders to give up their people’s aboriginal and Treaty-guaranteed priority Water Rights by accepting a “Settlement Agreement” written to benefit some of the West’s most powerful mining and energy corporations.
They are doing so by trying to persuade the Navajo Nation and Hopi leaders to support and endorse Senate Bill 2109.
Senate Bill 2109 45; the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012” was introduced by Kyl and McCain on February 14, 2012, and is on a fast track to give Arizona corporations and water interests a “100 th birthday present” that will close the door forever on Navajo and Hopi food and water sovereignty, security and self-reliance.
S.2109 asks the Navajo and Hopi people’s to waive their priority Water Rights to the surface waters of the Little Colorado River “from time immemorial and thereafter, forever” in return for the shallow promise of uncertain federal appropriations to supply minimal amounts of drinking water to a handful of reservation communities.
The Bill – and the “Settlement Agreement” it ratifies – do not quantify Navajo and Hopi water rights – the foundation of all other southwestern Indian Water Rights settlements to date – thereby denying the Tribes the economic market value of their water rights, and forcing them into perpetual dependence on uncertain federal funding for any water projects.
Senators Kyl and McCain know well that without water, life is not possible. Yet, their Bill and the “Settlement Agreement” close the door forever to any possibility of irrigated agriculture and water conservation projects to heal and restore Navajo and Hopi watersheds (keeping sediment from filling downstream reservoirs) to grow high-value income and employment-producing livestock and crops for Navajo, Hopi and external markets; and to provide once again for healthy, diabetes – and obesity-free nutrition and active lifestyles for all future generations of Navajo and Hopi children.
Senators Kyl and McCain demand that the Navajo and Hopi people waive and give up all their rights to legal protection of injury to surface and ground water supply and quality in the past, present, and future – yet the Navajo and Hopi people do not even know the full extent and nature of the rights they are being pressured to waive because the details of the “Settlement Agreement” are not being shared with the public.
This is wrong.
Navajo and Hopi water and public health have already been damaged severely by past uranium and coal mining in and upstream of Navajo and Hopi communities. Senators Kyl and McCain are trying now to take away all rightful legal protections against the present and real danger of such contaminations occurring again.
S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to assess comprehensive long-term water needs of every community, village, and watershed; and deny the resources and means to plan for, and develop sufficient domestic, municipal, industrial and agricultural “wet water” projects essential to the permanent well-being, prosperity and health of their homelands and children’s children. This is absolutely counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1908 Winter’s Doctrine that explicitly reserves and safeguards the water needed for that permanent well-being and prosperity.
S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” deny the Navajo and Hopi people the resources and means to bank their own waters, or to recharge their aquifers depleted and damaged by the mining and energy corporations that S.2109 benefits. S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually – without any compensation – and to force the extension of Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development.
This is coercive and wrong.
Ed Becenti, Navajo, has lived on the Navajo Reservation his entire life. He grew up on tradition and culture taught by his elders in the Navajo language. Mr. Becenti serves as a spokesperson Navajo people in the political environment challenging sensitive Native issues in local, state, and national government. Presently, protecting sacred tribal water rights has become personal priority for him; not only on behalf of Navajo people, but for the neighboring Hopi Nation. He resides in Window Rock, Arizona.
posted April 4, 2012 7:57 am edt