Sen. McCain meets with Navajo Chapter Officials
“We believe the time has come to resume water rights negotiations,”–Lee Jack Sr.
Navajo Nation Council Delegate, Lee Jack Sr. coordinated a meeting that included the Navajo chapters he represents, Navajo Veterans, and Arizona Senator John McCain. The purpose of the meeting on January 22, 2016 was to discuss the need to resume the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement.
In 2012, the Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement (S. 2109) failed to pass Navajo and Hopi tribal councils. The main points of disagreement included; the renewal of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and Peabody Coal Mine leases, high level of activist group outcry, public and leadership confusion, and failed attempt to renegotiate. The settlement would have mandated congressional funding for a water pipeline from the Leupp Well area to Dilkon in the amount of $400 million.
Today there is new leadership both in the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice-President and the NGS and Peabody lease agreements have been extended for 25 years. There is a perceived opportunity to resume talks on the LCR Water Rights Settlement if common ground can be discovered from all stakeholders including the activist groups.
The south-central area of the Navajo Nation comprises of White Cone, Indian Wells, Greasewood Springs, and Dilkon Chapters which Jack Sr. represents. These communities are depended on a shallow alluvial aquifer along the Pueblo Colorado which does not meet the water supply needs.
Teesto Chapter President, Elmer Begay, and the Navajo Nation Division of Health Services planner, stated that a new hospital is in the planning stages for Dilkon but the lack of water is a major hindrance. Veterans’ health care was discussed as part of the need for the regional hospital. One of the three veterans involved mentioned to McCain that he was a Vietnam vet who came out of the war on a stretcher. McCain replied that he too was a Vietnam vet that came out of the war on a stretcher.
Both Senators McCain and Flake have been requested to support the resumption of negotiations and to bring the settlement back on the table. Sen. McCain explained to the group that he did not want to tell tribes what to do, however he is interested in negotiating a settlement to secure water projects for both the State and the Navajo Nation.
This situation has also stifled economic development as well as other large scale public and health care facilities. Jack Sr. has been active in promoting development projects in his communities, many of which are in the planning phases and will require access to water in order to move forward.