Tag Archives: Stanley Pollack

8/28/2011 Washington Examiner: Navajos focus on Little Colorado River settlement

8/28/2011 Washington Examiner: Navajos focus on Little Colorado River settlement By: FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press: The Navajo Nation, unwilling to settle its claims to the Colorado River without a pipeline to deliver much-needed water to its residents, now is focusing on rights to water from one of the river’s tributaries. Negotiators on a northern Arizona water rights settlement have removed from the deal a $515 million pipeline that would have delivered water to the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Even with the lower cost, however, it remains uncertain when the revised settlement might be introduced in Congress. Navajo lawmakers approved a version of the settlement last year. That version included the pipeline to send 11,000 acre-feet of Colorado River from Lake Powell to a handful of Navajo communities and about 4,000 acre-feet of water a year to the Hopi reservation.

But Republican Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who has shepherded key American Indian water rights deals through Congress, later said it was too costly and asked the negotiators to revise it.

Kyl’s office declined to comment on the revised settlement that negotiators sent him in June because it’s not final. But in a letter to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Kyl said the revised document marks only the next phase of conversation and that “it is possible that those costs will have to be further reduced.”

“Because of the estimated cost associated with a main-stem settlement, the parties pulled back and focused simply on a Little Colorado River settlement,” said Tom Whitmer, a water resource manager and tribal liaison for the state water department. “The federal government’s budget is not in the most healthy state. Whenever you start talking about settlements, it’s also about the cost of the infrastructure to get the water to the area it’s needed.”

Under the revised settlement, the Navajo Nation still would get any unclaimed flows from the Little Colorado River and nearly unlimited access to two aquifers beneath the reservation. It also would settle claims from the Hopi Tribe, which did not follow the Navajos’ footsteps in approving the settlement last year.

“I think we’ve gotten some things in there we feel good about,” said Hopi Chairman Le Roy Shingoitewa. “Whether or not they remain is really something the parties all have to agree to.”

Both the Navajo and Hopi are party to a case to adjudicate rights to the Little Colorado River, which has been on hold to allow for settlement discussions. Aside from Zuni Pueblo, no other Arizona tribe has acquired rights to the river, Whitmer said.

The revised settlement was revealed in a separate federal court case earlier this month in which the Navajo Nation sued to assert its rights to the Colorado River. The negotiators said in a status report that they did not expect any settlement to be approved by Congress until late next year.

They also outlined further concerns by Kyl, including the future of the Navajo Generating Station that provides power to deliver water through a series of canals to 80 percent of the state’s population and ensures that American Indian water rights settlements are met.

Kyl had asked negotiators for the tribes and 30 other entities to try to lower the $800 million cost of the settlement so that he could introduce legislation well ahead of his planned retirement.

Navajo water rights attorney Stanley Pollack said the settlement was structured so that the pipeline could be removed if necessary and that he would not bring it before tribal lawmakers without Kyl’s blessing.

Although the pipeline has been dropped from the settlement, neither the Navajo Nation nor the Hopi Tribe has waived rights to water from the Colorado River.

The revised settlement would provide the delivery of some 6,400 acre-feet of Colorado River water to Navajo communities in Arizona, along the New Mexico border. The water was reserved for a possible Navajo water rights settlement with the state of Arizona as part of a historic deal with Arizona tribes in 2004. The water would be delivered through the Navajo-Gallup pipeline authorized by the Navajo Nation’s water agreement with New Mexico in 2009.

The Arizona settlement for the lower Colorado River basin had been in negotiation for more than a decade. Tribal officials say they’ll now have to come up with other ways to provide water in areas where Navajos commonly drive long distances to haul water for themselves and their livestock. Some smaller projects are in the works.

Ray Yazzie Begay, 45, had high hopes for a pipeline that would deliver water to his community in Cameron. Much of the water there has a bitter taste, he said, and is good only for showering and livestock feeding. He recently was filling up a 210-gallon water tank outside the Cameron Trading Post that was destined for his sheep, cattle and horses a few miles away.

A pipeline “would bring a lot of good things to the community,” he said. “A lot of us live out there in the back areas.”

Navajo lawmaker Duane Tsinigine said the need for water is especially prevalent on the western side of the reservation, where Navajos were prevented from making any improvements to their home or land for decades because of a land dispute with the Hopi Tribe. The construction ban has been lifted but many in the community are still awaiting basic needs, he said.

“Maybe we can file for a separate settlement, which if we filed we might not see in this lifetime,” he said.

http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/2011/08/navajos-focus-little-colorado-river-settlement-0#.Tlrg5qffoZw.email#ixzz1WO8qKBu2Read more at the Washington Examiner:

7/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Western Navajo Pipeline dropped from water rights talks

7/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Western Navajo Pipeline dropped from water rights talks By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – If the Navajo Nation wants the Western Navajo Pipeline it’s going to have to build it, at least as the situation now stands. The project is no longer part of the proposed Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement. Stanley Pollack, Navajo water rights attorney, and the Navajo Water Rights Commission gave the Nabiki’yati’ Committee an update Tuesday evening on water rights settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, as well as near-miss litigation with the city of Flagstaff over water drilling on the city’s Red Gap Ranch. Pollack said he informed the Navajo Nation Council in May that the proposed Northeastern Arizona settlement approved last November by the 21st Council was no longer under consideration because Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who heads the Arizona congressional delegation, didn’t think the settlement could get through the current Congress.

On March 23, Kyl advised the settlement parties to come up with a proposal that did not include the costly Western Navajo Pipeline, which would bring “liquid gold” to water-starved portions of the Nation in Western Navajo Agency.

“I immediately told the senator that without the Western Navajo Pipeline that the Navajo Nation was not willing to engage in any discussions concerning settlement of its Colorado River water rights. So we basically took the Colorado River issues off the table once Congress took the Western Navajo Pipeline off the table,” Pollack said.

Lack of support for the Western Navajo project was not unanticipated, however, and as a result, “we have been involved in trying to wrap up a settlement of just the Little Colorado River and not the Colorado River,” he said. Hopi stood to gain nothing out of the Little Colorado River settlement because there were no projects for the Hopis involved, so they were not part of the deal, he added.

Kyl set a June 3 deadline for the parties to put together a settlement he could introduce this month in Congress. On June 3, attorneys for parties to the settlement discussions entered into an agreement “basically agreeing to what we would call a Little Colorado River settlement,” Pollack said. That settlement was forwarded to Kyl’s office and the Department of the Interior, where it is now under review.

“If we get to the point that there is a settlement that the administration and Congress believe has legs, can move forward, has some chance of being approved by the next Congress, at that point in time we will come back and give you more details on the settlement and ask for your approval,” he said.

“But we don’t think there’s any point of going through another process of approving a settlement that we just simply don’t have the go-ahead from either the congressional delegation or the administration to move forward in Congress.”

Delegate Leonard Tsosie said what bothers him is that Kyl is calling the shots. “I don’t think that the agreement that the Council approved should be characterized as a non-valid consideration.” He asked the Water Rights Commission to convene at least one meeting to explain to the Navajo people the status of the Western pipeline. “I think if this is no longer a valid consideration, then we need to be honest with the people and tell them that – in Navajo language.”

He also suggested the Commission begin talking with the Obama administration to try to promote the pipeline.

“Sen. Kyl is going to be gone in less than a year. So be it. Let him go to whatever burned-out place near Walla where I suppose he has a cabin. But for the Navajo people, life goes on. We still need water, with or without Sen. Kyl. … Not showing sympathy for basic human need, to just kind of turn a blind eye to that really bothers me to. I would like to think that he has a heart.”

Tsosie said Hopi also got off without approving the lease. “Many of the Navajo persons were praising them for doing that while the rest of us were getting close to having our effigies burned. Hopi has made off clean here. … I think in the future this Council ought to consider whether we truly need Hopi approval or not. I’ve always said to put the spigot at the borderline and let them develop their own water line if they so care to do so.”

Lorenzo Curley took issue with the “sacred cow” portion of the negotiations – the Colorado River and Navajo Generating Station.

“As we all know, Navajo Generating Station supplies 90 percent of the water to Phoenix and Tucson area, and they need this. That’s why they’re ensuring that the generating station is considered part of this agreement. We’re allowing that sacred cow to be part of this agreement. Why don’t we just take it off the table? They’ve done that with the Colorado River and the Western pipeline. They’ve taken our sacred cow off; let’s take theirs off,” he said.

Alton Shepherd said Curley brought forth a good analysis of the process. “I did have my reservations on what was being agreed,” he said.

Katherine Benally told the committee that as much as they don’t like what has transpired, they can’t blame Pollack and the Water Rights Commission. “It’s a decision Sen. Kyl made. … That was his position and it’s sort of the position in Washington, D.C., right now due to the deficit or the money crunch everybody is in. So, what’s the solution?

“Every time we negotiate something, we sacrifice. Maybe land, maybe water, maybe a little bit of our sovereignty, maybe our water rights. But if we put our money where our mouth is, we don’t sacrifice anything.”

Benally said the main cost is to bring the water up from the canyon at Lees Ferry. She referred to some Oriental investors who recently visited Navajo. “’Let us build it for you,’ they said. I would ask the Water Rights Commission to take a look at that. At least sit down with them and have a dialog and report back. See what transpires.”

Pollack said there appeared to be a couple common themes of frustration and perhaps even anger over what has happened with the Western pipeline. “There is no question that the Navajo people in the Western Agency need water. Once you are west of the Echo Cliffs, there is no groundwater, there is no surface water. That is why the Western Navajo Pipeline has always been the backbone of any Colorado River discussions that we have had.”

But there is really no point in pushing the pipeline in its current form, he said. “There’s no place to go with it. The Obama administration does not support it. Congress doesn’t support it. Look, these people are talking about cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, health benefits for the American people. They’re trying to cut back. They’re trying not to spend more money.”

Meanwhile, the Nation’s Water Management Branch is building the Western Navajo Pipeline “one piece at a time,” Pollack said. Navajo technical staff is working with Indian Health Service and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to get drinking water to the people in Western Navajo.

“There is a small pipeline in the ground that goes almost all the way to Cameron. There is about a six mile gap that we have not been able to get funding for,” he said, because it doesn’t meet the criteria. Approximately $986,000 is needed.

“One of the things that we would like the Council to consider is pitching in and helping to finish that pipeline.” Once it is completed, he said, “you will actually have a small version of the Western Navajo Pipeline.”

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.