Navajo Irrigation Project update

Latest Interior Environment Appropriations Bill increases funding

WASHINGTON--The Navajo Indian Irrigation Project saw its budget increase from an average of $8 to $9 million per year to $12.773 million for fiscal year 2006 to continue construction of the water project that supplies the tribe's agricultural enterprise in northwest New Mexico when Congress passed the Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill last week.

The act also contains funding for a number of Native programs including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Indian Health Service.

"I am encouraged that we are a little closer to finishing this crucial piece of infrastructure that only adds to our foundation of economic development," Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said. "I thank our Congressional delegation for listening to the Navajo Nation and for making our dream of economic independence closer to a reality."

Navajo Nation Washington Office Executive Director Sharon Clahchischilliage said, "This increase is extremely appreciated but we still need to keep a steady pressure for the promised full funding amount to insure completion of this vital project which will add to our financial independence."

The overall Interior-Environment appropriations bill, now on President Bush's desk awaiting his signature, also contained increases to a number of other native programs that was higher than previous funding levels proposed by the Bush administration.

Last February, President Bush requested $2.156 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs programs and construction and $3.047 million for the Indian Health Service for FY2006. In passing last week's bill, both houses of Congress raised those funding levels by 5.136 percent for BIA for a total of $2.267 million for FY 2006, and 1.404 percent for the IHS for a total of $3,090 million for FY2006.

In the Eastern Agency, the Crownpoint Institute of Technology saw an increase of $500,000 from FY2005 for a total of $1.8 million and the replacement of the Crownpoint Boarding School was included as part of the increase for BIA school construction.

Also in New Mexico, the Red Lake Dam in McKinley County received $300,000 in BIA dam safety funding. Among the projects in Arizona, the bill contained $3.878 million for a health center for the Kayenta Township and $8 million for the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.

According to a recent press release from New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici's office, additional HIS funding is in the bill, making $150 million in direct funding available to IHS to continue widespread diabetes prevention and treatment programs for American Indians under the Domenici special diabetes program for Indians.

The $150 million that will be added to IHS budget for the Special Diabetes Program for Indians represents the third year of a five-year extension of a program Domenici initiated in 1997 to focus more attention to the growing diabetes crisis among American Indians. Domenici gained a reauthorization for the program in 2003, ensuring that $150 million would be provided annually between FY2004 to FY2008.

(George Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)

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