TEMPE, Ariz. — During a policy roundtable discussion held at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus March 9, Navajo Indian Irrigation Project (NIIP) members advocated to the Western Caucus Foundation for funding for the project.
Navajo Indian Irrigation Project Negotiation Subcommittee members included Council Delegates Benjamin L. Bennett and Kee Allen Begay, Jr., as well as Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI) delegated CEO Lionel Haskie.
The Western Caucus Foundation is composed of U.S. House and Senate members from the democratic and republican parties that represent western and rural states who are committed to protecting private property, strengthening local control, promoting economic growth, and increasing energy independence.
“The subcommittee and NAPI will continue to advocate for the completion of NIIP, which the federal government is obligated to complete as well as to continue to address NIIP’s issues and concerns to the Western Caucus Foundation,” said Bennett during the discussion.
In 1962, congress passed Public Law 87-483, which established the NIIP for the purpose of furnishing irrigation water to approximately 110,630 acres of farmland on the Navajo Nation, which remains incomplete.
The presentation by Haskie concentrated on approximately 9,800 irrigated acres of the NIIP, also known as Block 9, which would require $24 million annually for six years in order to complete.
The NIIP’s priorities also include a request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to fund annual operations and maintenance costs, and funding for the replacement of deteriorating infrastructure.
Begay said the lack of increased funding from the federal government limits the progress and initiatives that the NAPI board and management envision for the growth of the Navajo-owned enterprise that employs hundreds of Navajo people.
“Navajo leadership and NAPI need to advocate at every level for the project until the federal government upholds the treaty obligations. The federal government needs to hear our issues and concerns,” Begay said.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), who chaired the policy roundtable, thanked the subcommittee and NAPI for the presentation, adding that tribal nations including Navajo Nation should continue to work with the Western Caucus Foundation to address their concerns and issues.
In April 2017, the Navajo Nation Council’s Naabik’íyáti’ Committee created the NIIP subcommittee to advocate for Operations and Maintenance funding, and other available funds.