Letter: A step toward termination

To the editor:

If the disastrous SB 2109 and the Little Colorado River (LCR) Water Rights Settlement, is enacted into law, it will be a repeat of the past when the Hopi Tribe was coerced into leasing land to Peabody for coal mining and coal slurry operations.

First, it will not protect Sipapuni, one of the holiest of religious Hopi Shrines, our place of emergence to the present Fourth World. It connects us to our ancestors in Meso America. It is our "Center of the Universe." It defines who we are.

Second, not only will non-Indian users of the LCR take away our water, but they will no longer be liable for destroying LCR.

In any settlement, all parties give and take. In the present situation, Hopi and Navajo are doing all the giving, in return for promised pipeline projects with no commitment of real money.

Third, when the Hopi Groundwater Project (Project) is "substantially" completed, the title to the project and water will be transferred to the Hopi Tribe. This means the Federal Government's trust responsibility to protect our water will be permanently terminated, and future generations will take over total responsibility for the cost of operating the pipeline.

Fourth, under Sen. Jon Kyl's plan, the state of Arizona will take control of our water resources. This means the Hopi Tribe's sovereignty will be further diminished. Add this to termination of federal trust duty, and you move a step closer to termination.

Fifth, the project was intended to protect pristine waters stored in the ancient Navajo Aquifer. It does not do that. Instead, it allows Peabody to keep pumping up to 2044. Peabody will also be allowed to keep its eight wells and to drill more wells, if needed. Peabody will also keep some of the impoundments permanently, and build more, if needed.

A law called the U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) is already set up to protect land and natural resources. No new law is needed.

Peabody is the biggest abuser of our sole source drinking water. Peabody is currently using 1200 AFY, approximately three times the entire amount of the Hopi Reservation is using. From 1970 to the end of December, Peabody pumped over 45 billion gallons of groundwater. This is enough to sustain the entire population of 10,000 for over 300 years.

If SB 2109 becomes law, the Hopi Tribe will be committed to extending the Kayenta Mine lease up to the end of 2044.

If SB 2109 becomes law, Peabody and the Federal Government will never be held liable for damages to ground and surface waters and cultural resources. This is the reason why the Federal Government negotiators and Peabody wants the Navajo Aquifer to be part of the Settlement Act.

SB 2109 promises to protect Pasture Canyon, but does not actually appropriate money, only "authorized to appropriate." Remember, legislation is nothing more than promises, until real money is appropriated by Congress.

By now, most Hopi and Diné grassroots people know the purpose of the so-called Little Colorado River Water Settlement Act is to save the Navajo Generating Station, Central Arizona Project, and Peabody Mining, not securing water rights to the Little Colorado River.

The Hopi Tribal Council will hold a hearing on the legislation on June 15. This will be an historic day.

Vernon Masayesva

Executive Director

Black Mesa Trust

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