Shirley approves Arizona water settlement

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. signed legislation on Nov. 18 to approve the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement, calling it the best hope for the Nation to acquire needed water for growth in the future.

"Our own Navajo people worked diligently on this settlement and recommend we go with it," the President said. "We've been talking about water rights, our need for water, and the settlement for decades, and if we prolong it, there won't be any more water to allocate."

President Shirley said he would speak to the Navajo people on KTNN radio on Monday to discuss the value of the settlement and his reasons for signing the legislation.

The settlement was approved by the Navajo Nation Council on Nov. 4 by a vote of 51-24. It secures the Navajo Nation's water rights to the Lower Basin of the Colorado River and Little Colorado River systems.

The settlement calls for the construction of three pipeline projects to provide water to the southern and central regions of the Navajo Nation.

Among them are the:

• $515 million Western Navajo Pipeline - This will provide Colorado River water to the communities of LeChee, Coppermine, Bodaway-Gap, Cameron and Tuba City, as well as 4,000 acre feet per year for the Hopi Tribe.

• $113 million Leupp-Dilkon Regional Groundwater Project - This will provide water from the Coconino Aquifer to Leupp, Bird Springs, Tolani Lake, Teesto, Dilkon, Indian Wells, Lower Greasewood and White Cone.

• $65 million Ganado Regional Groundwater Project - This will provide C-Aquifer water to Ganado, Kinlichee, Jeddito, Cornfields, Steamboat, Klagetoh and Wide Ruins.  

The Arizona settlement is the complement to the 2005 San Juan River Water Rights Settlement between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico. The San Juan River Water Rights Settlement was signed into law by President Obama on March 31, 2009, through the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act. It calls for the construction of the $870 million Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

Should Congress fail to appropriate funding to build the projects, no water rights will be lost.

In signing the legislation, President Shirley emphasized the need for the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission to continue to educate the Navajo people about the need for and benefits of the settlement.

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