Following a recently introduced Senate Bill proposing to settle Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe water rights, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly along with the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission will hold several public forums throughout the Navajo Nation according to a Nation press release.
The bill “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012” was introduced by Sen. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, in February.
A summary of the bill found at GovTrack.us states the bill “[r]equires all water rights of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe to be held in trust for the Nation, the Tribe, and their allottees. Directs the Bureau of Reclamation, subject to the availability of appropriations, to plan, design, and construct: (1) the Leupp-Dilkon Groundwater Project and the Ganado Groundwater Project for transfer to the Navajo Nation, and (2) the Hopi Groundwater Project for transfer to the Hopi Tribe. Releases the federal government from any obligation to cover the operation, maintenance, and replacement costs of the projects after title to the projects is transferred and certain amounts are deposited in trust accounts for such costs. Authorizes the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, and federal government to waive and release specified claims pursuant to the Agreement.”
The Act would also amend the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Settlement Act of 1996 to authorize the Secretary to allow the Hopi Tribe to enter into a service agreement for temporary delivery, use and transfer of water from land recently acquired outside of Winslow, Arizona, to be used in that city or nearby Hopi fee land. The Bill’s summary also states it would limit the water rights of lands taken into trust for the Navajo Nation or Hopi Tribe after this Act’s enactment to the rights provided under the Agreement, the Act of 1996, and this Act, unless additional rights are established through another Act.
“We need to make sure our Navajo people are informed about this bill. Water rights is always a sensitive subject, so as a leader, I must make sure our people understand what this bill means to our people,” Shelly said in the release.
The bill is currently waiting for approval by both bodies of Congress. The House version, H.R. 4067 is sponsored by Arizona state Rep. Ben Quayle, R-District 3. If the bodies pass the Act, it still needs President Barack Obama’s signature, and approval by the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe before it can be finalized according to the release.
A list of the Navajo forum meetings, to be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., follows:
- April 17 – Greyhills High School Auditorium, Tuba City, Arizona
- April 18 – Pinon High School Auditorium, Pinon, Arizona
- April 19 – Ganado Field House, Ganado, Arizona
- April 20 – Oak Springs Chapter House, Oak Springs, Arizona
- April 24 – Leupp Chapter House, Leupp, Arizona
- April 25 – Teesto Chapter House, Teesto, Arizona
April 26 – Fort Defiance Chapter House, Fort Defiance, Arizona