Tag Archives: Ne Arizona Water Rights Settlement

11/5/2011 Zarbin: Tribes have role in Ariz.'s water future Indian – Tribes have unfair advantage in Ariz.'s water future

11/5/2011 The Arizona Republic: Zarbin: Tribes have role in Ariz.’s water future Indian – Tribes have unfair advantage in Ariz.’s water future: Indian tribes are expected to play significant roles in central Arizona’s water future, but they get little recognition of this in the media. For instance, in the past two months, The Arizona Republic has printed columns about two new institutional reports about central Arizona’s water future, but neither article mentioned Indian tribes, much less explained the part they play in the coming drama. In “Watering the Sun Corridor: Managing Choices in Arizona’s Megapolitan Area,” issued by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University, several hundred words are spent on the Indians, including the possibility that tribes will use 500,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water imported through the Central Arizona Project for agriculture instead of leasing it to cities for people to use.

“This policy choice,” wrote chief Sun Corridor author Grady Gammage Jr., “might be made by central Arizona’s tribal communities. At an average use of 150 GPCD (gallons per capita daily), that’s 2.9 million fewer people to be accommodated.”

If, as Gammage stated in The Republic Aug. 21 (Viewpoints), “the Sun Corridor … watering system can likely support about 9.5 million people at current rates of consumption — but to do that will require virtually eliminating commercial agriculture,” and Indian tribes make a “policy choice” to continue commercial agriculture, what do those 2.9 million people do for water?

Indeed, how did central Arizona Indian reservations come to be in the position of one day being able to decide whether they prefer to farm or to continue to lease water to cities so that 2.9 million urbanites in the Sun Corridor will have water?

Today’s Sun Corridor residents, as well as those in the generations to come, deserve to have a clear understanding of how and why a considerable portion of their water future came to be put into the hands of Indians and what, if anything, could or should be done about it.

The story of how this came about is much too complicated and lengthy to be told in this brief commentary, but an inkling of what is involved may begin to emerge by understanding that less than 5 percent of the state’s 2010 population of 6,392,017 living on Indian reservations control a little more than 51 percent of Arizona’s yearly Colorado River water-surface supply of 2,800,000 acre-feet.

(Gammage pointed out that an acre-foot of water, 325,851 gallons, is “enough to support about five people per year, not including agriculture, mining and other industry.”)

The 51 percent of the state’s Colorado River water controlled by Indian tribes includes almost 46 percent, 650,724 acre-feet, of the water brought from the Colorado River to the Sun Corridor counties of Maricopa, Pinal and Pima by the Central Arizona Project.

Just two of these tribal groups, with one-third of 1 percent of the state’s 2010 population, have been given almost 1 million acre-feet of Arizona’s yearly Colorado River water entitlement. The tribal groups are the Gila River Indian Community, whose reservation abuts metropolitan Phoenix on the south, and the Colorado River Indian Tribes, along the Colorado River.

With about 19,000 residents, the two reservations have 974,202 acre-feet of Colorado River water. The Gila River Reservation is entitled to 311,800 acre-feet and the Colorado River Reservation 662,402 acre-feet.

This seems excessive to this observer, but, then, what does he understand of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides for “the equal protection of the laws.” As George Orwell wrote in “Animal Farm,” “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The second institutional study, “Arizona at the Crossroads: Water Scarcity or Water Sustainability,” provided by the Grand Canyon Institute and reported in The Republic Oct. 3, doesn’t even mention Indian involvement.

What are Arizonans of the future, or today for that matter, to think about the unfair distribution of Arizona’s Colorado River water and the fact that Indian tribes can so drastically impact the off-reservation water picture?

But, then, maybe we aren’t expected to think or to be concerned and are simply to ignore that non-Indians have not been treated alike.

Earl Zarbin, a retired reporter and editor for The Republic, is the author of six history books, four of them about Arizona water.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2011/11/04/20111104zarbin05-tribes-role-arizs-water-future.html#ixzz1dvKhCn1W

5/2/2011 Gallup Independent: Northeastern Arizona water rights settlement 'too expensive'

Northeastern Ariz. water rights settlement ‘too expensive’   By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent 5/2/2011:  WINDOW ROCK – The proposed $800 million Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement approved by the Navajo Nation last November is “too expensive” and will not be introduced to Congress in its current form, according to court documents.   An April 19 report from Arizona Superior Court Special Master George A. Schade Jr., states that parties to the settlement were informed March 24 by U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that the proposed settlement is too expensive. Navajo Nation water rights attorney Stanley Pollack stated in the report that Kyl is unwilling to introduce legislation to authorize the settlement in its current form given the current political and fiscal climate in Washington.

However, Kyl encouraged the parties to reach new settlement language by June so that he might submit legislation to Congress prior to his retirement in 2012 at the end of the current Congress. Pollack informed Schade that the parties were scheduled to meet with Kyl last week in Phoenix to discuss possible terms. Since being advised that the proposed settlement is too expensive, the negotiating parties have been meeting to revise the terms and make it less costly.

The Navajo Nation’s San Juan River water rights settlement also had an estimated price tag of $800 million.

Pollack noted that terms approved Nov. 4, 2010, by the 21st Navajo Nation Council for the Northeastern Arizona settlement are no longer up for consideration because the settlement does not have a chance for success in Congress. No action was taken by the Hopi Tribe, as the document had not gone out to the villages for consideration by the Hopi people.

Under the proposed agreement – which had grassroots Navajos marching on Window Rock in protest – the Navajo Nation would receive 31,000 acre-feet of “fourth priority” water per year, while Navajo Generating Station would receive 34,100 acre-feet per year of Upper Basin water for its continued operation.

Any new settlement terms will require approval by the 22nd Navajo Nation Council and the 32 other parties to the settlement. Pollack reported that he does not anticipate that the terms will be approved by the time federal legislation is introduced.

When contacted Friday, Pollack said he was “hamstrung” from discussing the matter by confidentiality orders, however, he did say, “The Arizona discussions are not dead.”

The settlement springs from the Little Colorado River adjudication which has been ongoing since March 14, 2003, when the Navajo Nation took legal action challenging the Secretary of the Interior’s operation of various management programs in the Lower Basin of the Colorado River. Numerous parties have since intervened, among them the state of Arizona, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Salt River Project, Arizona Power Authority, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and the state of Nevada.

The Navajo Nation and the United States stipulated to granting all motions to intervene and to a two-year stay of the litigation so the Interior could appoint an Indian water rights settlement team and pursue efforts to resolve the Nation’s water rights claims through negotiation and settlement.

On April 12, parties involved in the case requested a four-month extension of stay until Aug. 15 in the federal court case, the Navajo Nation v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., and U.S. District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt granted the stay April 19. The court has repeatedly granted extensions of the original stay issued in October 2004.

Water from the Little Colorado River system could affect the magnitude of the Nation’s claim to water from the main stem Colorado River. In 2005, the parties acknowledged that resources within the Little Colorado River Basin are not sufficient to secure a permanent homeland for the Navajo people. The “Kyl Report” and other studies have reached the conclusion that there would be a need for some imported water supplies from the Colorado River.

During November’s protest in Window Rock, Jeneda Benally said the Navajo people were opposed to having their water rights “sold out underneath us, because our future generations … are going to be affected by this decision, and 31,000 acre-feet of water is not enough. We need to be able to sustain ourselves as a people, and for that we need water. Water is life.”

Many of the grassroots people also were upset that the language called for waiving all “past, present and future claims for water rights arising from time immemorial” that are based upon aboriginal occupancy. Navajo also would waive any claims for injury to water quality – another concern of residents who have been impacted by past coal and uranium mining.