Navajo President applauds recent water rights legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly commends Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl and Sen. John McCain (co-sponsor) for introducing S 2109, the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act, legislation that authorizes a settlement of the legal claims of the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe to water from all sources within the Little Colorado River basin in northern Arizona.

The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to execute a settlement agreement to resolve these water rights claims of the tribes.

"Water is precious and sacred. This settlement has been decades in the making. It creates opportunity for more of our Navajo people to gain access to safe and reliable water sources. Water rights are a sensitive topic to many and we, the Navajo Nation government, take into account all the views expressed. We applaud Senator Kyl and Senator McCain for introducing this important legislation and we look forward to working with them to ensure passage of S 2109," President Shelly said.

In addition to securing water rights, the bill includes authorizations for two Navajo drinking water delivery projects: The Leupp-Dilkon Groundwater Project and the Ganado Groundwater Project.

The Navajo Nation Council, as well as the Hopi Tribal Council and other settling parties, must approve the settlement before Congress passes the settlement legislation.

Navajo Water Rights Attorney Stanley Pollack said he is grateful for the action taken by Senators Kyl and McCain to introduce legislation to authorize the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Settlement. "Senator Kyl's remarks were a sobering reminder that we have worked on Little Colorado River issues for more than a quarter of the time that Arizona has been a state, but that is a small amount of time compared to the long wait that many Navajo People have endured to obtain safe, reliable drinking water" Pollack said.

It is now up to the leaders of the Navajo Nation to consider approval of the settlement agreement. They will weigh the benefits of the settlement against what the Nation might secure through litigation. Funding for water delivery projects, like those included in the bill, cannot be awarded in litigation.

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