LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A number of economic and environmental issues were presented to the Western Caucus Foundation Dec. 8 in Las Vegas by Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland) to bring U.S. House and Senate members up to speed on key issues.
Topics covered in Bate’s presentation included the ongoing process of seeking new ownership and operator(s) for the Navajo Generating Station, garnering congressional support for S. 664 the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement Act, completion of the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project and leveraging funding for bulk water infrastructure projects on the Navajo Nation.
Bates presentation was part of the Winter Western Policy Roundtable and Public Lands Forum hosted by the Western Caucus Foundation, which is composed of members from the democratic and republican parties representing western and rural states focusing on four basic principles including environmental stewardship, energy, agriculture and forestry and judicial and regulatory reform.
The two-day forum was co-chaired by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and included House and Senate members and officials from the U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump administration.
“What I am presenting to you today, represents only a portion of what the Navajo Nation Council has prioritized during our time in office. We have made progress on these issues, however, we understand that it will take the partnership and support from congressional and senate members to move some of these initiatives forward and that is my purpose of being here today,” Bates said.
In regard to the future of Navajo Generating Station, Bates acknowledged that finding new ownership, operator(s), and securing power purchasing agreements present many challenges that must be addressed to continue operating the power plant and to preserve hundreds of Navajo jobs beyond 2019.
“It will take the coordination and cooperation of tribal, state, federal and many other officials to continue NGS operations,” Bates said. “The impacts of the potential closure of NGS go far beyond the Navajo Nation. The entire state of Arizona as well as other tribes will feel the impact in terms of revenue, jobs, water delivery and other benefits that NGS has provided for decades.”
In January 2016, the Navajo Nation Council approved legislation sponsored by Council Delegate Davis Filfred (Mexican Water, Aneth, Teecnospos, Tółikan, Red Mesa), supporting the proposed Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement. Bates requested the advocacy and support of caucus members for S. 664, which was introduced by U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and seeks congressional approval of the proposed settlement.
Bates also continued his advocacy efforts for the completion of “Block 9” of the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project that is operated by Navajo Agricultural Products Industry. He pointed out that the project is not operating and producing at full capacity because of the incomplete status of the 110,000-acre farm area, which the federal government is obligated to construct.
Gosar thanked Bates for his presentation, adding the Navajo Nation should continue to have a seat at the table and sharing their concerns and issues with the caucus members to move the initiatives forward.
Bates thanked the Western Caucus Foundation members for the invitation to present and said he will continue working and communicating closely in order to move the issues forward.
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