Tag Archives: Window Rock

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: President Shelly pushes for water settlements

10/13/2011 President Shelly pushes for water settlements By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo President Ben Shelly was in Washington Wednesday to advocate for the Navajo Generating Station, Arizona and Utah water rights settlements, and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. Congress has funded $24 million for pre-construction and construction activities for the Navajo-Gallup pipeline. An additional $60 million will be made available for the next three years from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, according to the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

In a meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Larry Echo Hawk, Shelly said, “We are working to keep the Navajo Generating Station open. The loss of the power plant will impact both Navajo and Hopi, other Arizona tribes, and the state.”

In contrast, when Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes visited Navajo in September, Resources and Development Committee member Leonard Tsosie told him that NGS and Peabody were “bad deals made by the federal government on behalf of the Navajo people.”

Resources Chair Katherine Benally said continued support of NGS, given its history with Navajo, did not look very favorable. “They took our water, they took our land and did not bother to come back and see if we were properly compensated,” she said.

During his meeting with Echo Hawk, Shelly said Navajo is in the final stages of a water rights settlement with Utah and needs for the administration “to lay the foundation for a complete settlement of our water claims on the Colorado River and to ensure water for Window Rock.”

The Navajo Nation also has been a co-participant in Tribal Unity Impact Week with nine other tribes and the National Congress of American Indians.

During a leadership meeting Tuesday, Shelly told tribal leaders, “Be united as one. I’m talking about uniting right now. We’re not on the same page. We need to get serious. We are going to build a United Nation of Indians.”

He referred to proposed twin office towers planned for Window Rock with a price tag of around $45 million. “If you want to work with us, that’s where we’re going to be,” he said.

He addressed sovereignty and self-sufficiency as part of his vision of economic prosperity, including needed changes to federal laws and policies which will reduce bureaucratic red tape to allow tribes to develop their resources, take control of land, and expand business opportunities.

“We can’t sit here every day and say ‘trust responsibility,’” he said.

Meeting with the Nation’s congressional leaders on proposed funding reductions for tribal programs, Shelly said, “Reducing funding for tribes would cruelly punish a vulnerable segment of the U.S. population.”

The president spoke with congressmen on funding concerns for Navajo Housing Authority, transportation, Navajo Abandoned Mines Lands, the proposed Arizona water rights settlement, Head Start, the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, and uranium cleanup on Navajo land.

Later, Shelly and a delegation from Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency met with U.S. EPA.

10/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Uranium mining license: Water wells, pipeline needed

10/10/2011 Uranium mining license: Water wells, pipeline needed by Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall sought assurances Thursday from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that Navajos living in Crownpoint would have a safe source of drinking water if Hydro Resources Inc. carries through with its plans for in situ mining of uranium in the Westwater Canyon Aquifer. In a hearing on cleanup of legacy uranium sites before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, Udall also pressed the NRC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on proposed future uranium mining operations.

“Crownpoint is the location of a proposed in-situ leach uranium recovery operation near the Churchrock legacy site, and I understand the NRC has set up a license for HRI at the Crownpoint site that is dependent on several conditions, including legacy cleanup,” Udall said, and asked the NRC to clarify the status and content of HRI’s permit.

Michael Weber of the NRC said HRI, a subsidiary of Uranium Resources Inc., is in the process of completing some preparatory activities and he expects the agency to issue a letter to HRI in the near future, authorizing them to proceed.

The Westwater aquifer, a major source of drinking water for Crownpoint, “is fairly good water,” which the community has relied on for a long time, Udall said. “If the requirements of the permit were fulfilled, could the NRC and the EPA guarantee a safe and a consistent water source for the Crownpoint community?”

Weber said a “unique” provision of the NRC license is it requires HRI to provide an alternate water source for the local community before the company begins mining. “Typically, the in-situ recovery facilities are located at some distance from communities and so that doesn’t present itself, but in this situation, because of the unique circumstances involving HRI-Crownpoint, that was a provision in the licensing of the facility,” he said.

HRI must replace two Navajo Tribal Utility Authority water supply wells and three Bureau of Indian Affairs wells. In addition, the company must construct the necessary water pipeline and provide funds so the existing water supply systems of NTUA and BIA can be connected to the new wells.

“I would point out that in the history of in-situ recovery regulation, we have not seen a situation where a local supply well has been adversely impacted by the mining,” Weber said. However, he added, there have been “excursions.”

“An excursion is where an elevated level has been detected in either a monitoring well laterally, distant from the minefield, or above or below the aquifer that’s being mined,” he said. “If those excursions are detected, the licensee has to take action to correct that situation and at the end of active mining has to restore the aquifer back to suitable water-quality standards.”

Udall said he thought that license condition was “greatly appreciated by the local community.”

Eric Jantz, attorney for Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, which has vigorously opposed HRI’s plans to mine uranium in Crownpoint and Churchrock, said, “I have not heard anyone in Crownpoint express appreciation that License Condition 10.27 was included. All of the people I’ve spoken with are just pissed off that the project was licensed in the first place.”

An interesting problem for HRI, he said, is that in 1991, HRI applied to New Mexico Environment Department for an aquifer designation for its Crownpoint site, which the state granted. However, EPA, exercising its supervisory authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act, overruled NMED.

“In rejecting HRI’s aquifer designation application, EPA said that the Westwater aquifer at the Crownpoint site is an underground source of drinking water. I can’t see how – either technically or politically – EPA could backtrack from this position. All this seems to suggest HRI couldn’t mine at the Crownpoint site even if it wanted to,” Jantz said.

“Given that Section 17 and Unit 1 are Indian Country and subject to the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act, that only leaves HRI with Section 8.” The 2005 act prohibited uranium mining and processing in Navajo Indian Country.

Chris Shuey of Southwest Research Information Center said NTUA’s management board adopted a resolution in December 1997 asserting that it would not allow replacement of its two municipal wells in Crownpoint.

“In March 2005, Dr. John Leeper with the Navajo Water Resources Department gave an expert declaration in which he concluded that the Westwater aquifer would continue to be a major source of water supply for the Eastern Agency, even with development of the Navajo-Gallup project water line, and that the Navajo-Gallup project was never intended to replace the use or reliance on groundwater for municipal and agricultural supply in the Eastern Agency,” Shuey said.

NRC’s condition that HRI provide an alternate water supply was not opposed, Shuey said, “since it was an acknowledgment by even NRC that, despite HRI’s assurances to the contrary, ISL mining could not be done at the Crownpoint wellfield without impacting at least NTUA-1 and possibly impacting NTUA -2.”

NRC called the location of proposed ISL mining within a half mile of a currently operating municipal water supply well “unprecedented” in the history of ISL mining, Shuey said.

In the 1997 resolution, which was adopted unanimously, NTUA said the NRC proposal did not address future operation and maintenance expenses the utility may incur due to calcification of its water distribution system, nor future water quality and quantity concerns in connection with the relocated water supply wells and restoration of groundwater after mining.

“The Management Board directs NTUA management to inform HRI and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it will not agree to plug and abandon its Crownpoint wells.”

10/7/2011 Navajo Nation Council – Office of the Speaker FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Speaker attempting to solve issues stemming from line item vetoes:

10/7/2011 Navajo Nation Council – Office of the Speaker FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Speaker attempting to solve issues stemming from line item vetoes: WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – A week and half after President Ben Shelly line item vetoed portions of the FY2012 Tribal Operating Budget, the Speaker is left with the task of solving the problems that have ensued as a result of Shelly’s contradictory action.  In addition to the line item vetoing of funding for the Little Folks Day Care Program, five Navajo Area Agency on Aging offices, the Navajo Green Commission, the Resources Committee, and the Legislative District Assistants for the 24 Council Delegates, the President vetoed personal travel and operating supplies from both the Office of the Speaker and the Office of Legislative Services.

In total, the Legislative Branch lost $2.8 million. Included in that amount, $397 thousand was vetoed from the Office of the Speaker and $1.9 million from the Office of Legislative Services.

The line-item veto of the Speaker’s travel budget directly impedes on essential roles and responsibilities of the Speaker. It disavows the Speaker of his ability to connect with Diné people on matters that are most important to them; to represent the people on issues that affect their daily life; and to attend to relationships at the state and federal level.

Earlier this week, Council was able to offer key testimony to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) and shortly after the testimony, the commission moved to adopt a proposed congressional map that was consistent with the Navajo Nation’s position.

Without the travel budget, travel to vital meetings such the AIRC hearing are not possible.

The vetoing of operating supplies further impedes on necessary daily operations by eliminating the budget for supplies such as postage, paper, software, printing, binding, and photocopying. In his memo to the Speaker, the President stated that the vetoes were necessary because they were “excessive.”

In addition, Council Delegates are left wondering about the Legislative District Assistants who were intended to assist with such tasks as tracking resolutions; compiling and analyzing data for special projects; serving as liaisons and addressing individual inquiries; attending and reporting on chapter meetings; composing correspondence; preparing written reports; and preparing information for presentations. For the time being, Council Delegates will have to continue with their hectic work and travel schedules.

It has been previously argued that US senators typically cover more land and serve more people in their daily work so Council Delegates should also be able to do the same. But, the needs of Diné people are different because communication between Diné elected leaders and community members are more complex and K’e based than elected leaders outside of the Navajo Nation.

The effect of the line item vetoes were detailed in a memo by Marcelino R. Gomez, Assistant Attorney General, “As a result of the line item vetoes by the President on September 22, 2011, a portion of the annual revenue projection is left unappropriated for Fiscal Year 2012. This portion is available for appropriation for Fiscal Year 2012.

“In addition, it is available for appropriation for recurring expenses because it is based on a recurring revenue projection. As a result, it is not limited by the limitations on supplemental appropriations as stated in 12 N.N.N §820(L). These amounts may be appropriated either by amendments to the 2012 Navajo Nation Fiscal Year Budget of by Supplemental Appropriations under 12 N.N.C §820(L).”

The Speaker is now tasked with alleviating the problems introduced by President Shelly’s line item vetoes, which were initially intended as a ‘checks and balances’ and not as a device for crippling necessary daily operations.

Before further actions are taken, the Speaker is patiently waiting for a productive response, from the President, to his inquiries to resolve the matter. Without prior communication, there is still substantial risk the President will veto any actions taken by Council to restore full operation.

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Contact: Jerome Clark, Communications Director
Phone: (928) 871-7160
Cell: (928) 637-5603
Fax: (928) 871-7255
nnlb.communications@gmail.com
www.navajonationcouncil.org

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Forum to focus on Navajo-Hopi coal, water issues

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Forum to focus on Navajo-Hopi coal, water issues By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The people of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe are at a crossroads, according to former Hopi Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa. The dilemma hinges on whether to continue accepting pennies on the dollar for their resources from outside entities, or take the bull by the horns and create “economic sovereignty” for themselves.

A public forum sponsored by the Inter-Tribal COALition to address tribal water, coal, environmental, cultural and economic issues affecting the tribes will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 on the sixth floor of the Native American Community Building, 4520 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

Presenters include Daniel Higgins, Ph.D., Sean Gnant of the Brewer Law Firm, Milton Bluehouse Sr., and Nuvamsa. Navajo Nation Council delegates, Hopi Tribal Council members, and interested members of both tribes are asked to attend the forum to learn more about their common issues.

“We believe that we are at the crossroads. Many of these entities are after our water and our coal. We kind of stand, so to speak, at the headwaters of all these resources,” Nuvamsa said.

Coal from the tribes is used to generate electricity so the people in southern Arizona, southern California and Nevada will have electricity in their homes. The massive Central Arizona Project depends on power from Navajo Generating Station so the federal government can deliver surface water to tribes and municipalities in southern Arizona, he said.

“The sad part is that these entities that are using these resources to provide these services to the people and generate profits are not paying us at the fair market value for our water and our coal,” while the tribal councils are prematurely agreeing to settlements without properly informing their people, he said.

“For example, the lease reopener that’s before the Hopi Council – there ought to be increased royalties. Instead of one-time bonuses, there ought to be annual bonuses. There ought to be higher scholarships – $85,000 (for Hopi) is nothing.”

In addition, provisions in the proposed Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement could hold Peabody Energy and others harmless for all past, present and future damages to the water quality. “I think these are the kinds of things that people need to know, that our tribal councils are agreeing to these things,” he said, adding that the companies should be held accountable for damages and the federal government should be held accountable for not enforcing the rules.

“Both nations ought to be able to say, ‘OK, we have this precious resource, we’re going to take all bidders,’ and be able to go out and compete for higher prices, not have it handed to Peabody Coal. We ought to be able to make those decisions ourselves. I call that economic sovereignty,” Nuvamsa said.

During last week’s meeting with U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes on the proposed water rights settlement – which many have linked to the future survival of NGS and the Central Arizona Project – Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said a change of policy may be in order in terms of the use of Navajo resources by outside entities such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles.

Begaye said Navajo historically has focused on “outsourcing” its minerals and water resources rather than looking inward to see how they can be used to benefit the Navajo people. He proposed that Navajo look at developing local community-based generating plants which produce up to 10 megawatts of electricity.

“The town of Shiprock where I’m the delegate – about 18,000 folks – we can probably use 2 to 3 megawatts to run the whole community, and the rest we could outsource and sell to outside entities or other communities on our land, using a combination of coal, wind and solar.”

Rather than building mega-plants to power up electricity in other places, if a company said, “’We want to come alongside you and develop those resources to light up your communities on the reservation, to give water to homes on your land, and be able to do it in such a way that these communities can start selling these sources to outside entities,’ then we’re really talking about a trust responsibility that builds the Nation first,” Begaye said.

“I think the focus needs to turn from Phoenix to the Navajo Nation, from Los Angeles to the Navajo Nation. That policy change, if it takes place, will resolve a lot of our issues. We are sitting on gold mines, but those gold mines are being used by outside entities.”

Navajos travel to major cities across the West and “dream about the days when we may have those stores and those manufacturing plants,” Begaye said, all the while knowing it is Navajo resources which made those developments possible. “Why not let’s turn that inward? Let’s change the policy of outsourcing, to using those resources to build a nation.” He asked Interior to help Navajo in that endeavor.

After Interior officials left, the work session turned from water to NGS and despite efforts by Duane Tsinigine and Nelson Begaye to keep the session open to the public, Nabiki’yati’ Committee voted to go into executive session.

Adella Begaye of Wheatfields, a member of Dine CARE, said, “This is very sad because there is no accountability, there is no transparency. All these decisions are made without our consent, without our concern. We have been concerned about the water settlement because 36,000 acre feet is not enough for our Nation, and they are now even trying to settle for $400 million – which is nothing.”

She said it was wrong for Navajo and Interior officials to try to push through the settlement by saying there is just a small window of opportunity because Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., will retire next year and chances for a settlement after that are not likely. “Kyl is for Phoenix to get all the water they can. They’re not for the Navajo Nation.”

Tsinigine left the meeting when it went to executive session. “It’s only fair that all delegates are here to hear these issues, and some of these issues, in general, should be made public. In LeChee, Coppermine and Kaibeto, the majority of the men and women work at Navajo Generating Station and they want to be updated and make sure that the people hear what is at the negotiating table,” he said afterward.

“We’re leaving 75 percent of the Council out of it,” because they were given abrupt notice of the meeting and many had prior commitments, he said. “That’s not fair.”

Marshall Johnson of To Nizhoni Ani, or Beautiful Water Speaks, said the Interior’s visit to discuss their water rights was “like you see on television – a drive-by” that took in the president’s office, Legislative and the Hopi Tribe, but the people, “the original stakeholders,” were left out.

The state of Arizona is the beneficiary of any proposed settlement, he said. During a May hearing in Washington, Shelly and Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa stressed the importance of NGS to the tribes. Johnson, who testified along with Black Mesa Trust Director Vernon Masayesva, opposed extending the lease.

“We told Central Arizona Project it’s about time they get self-sufficient. We’ve been feeding them. They have a $3.5 billion operation in industrial agriculture. We made it available for them. Navajo resources made it possible to push water 3,000 feet elevation uphill. They plant three times a year,” he said. “We have no net benefit from this operation.”

Information: http://beyondthemesas.com/2011/09/21/a-forum-to-address-tribal-water-coal-environment-cultural-and-economic-issues-affecting-hopi-tribe-navajo-nation-phoenix-az-sept-30-2011/

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Court halts NN mold cleanup

9/24/2011 Gallup Independent: Court halts NN mold cleanup  By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – At the request of Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran, District Court Judge Carol Perry issued a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon temporarily halting cleanup of black mold at Administration Building One until after a hearing Monday. Balaran filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, application for preliminary injunction and appointment of a special master at 1 p.m. Friday. He alleged that the building, which is the principal storehouse for the Navajo Nation’s financial documents, has been declared an environmental hazard.

“Locks have been replaced on all the doors and the financial records of the people are being removed and are slated to be destroyed,” he said.

No environmental hazards have been circulated confirming the ostensibly deadly mold that is supposedly infecting the building; no federal or state organizations have verified any findings or have generated any reports which would shed light on the gravity of the situation and propose realistic solutions, he said.

In addition, the effort to destroy all financial documents is spearheaded by Patrick Sandoval, former chief of staff to former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., who is named in a civil complaint filed by the special prosecutor alleging breach of fiduciary duty during his presidency. Also named are more than 80 current and former Navajo Nation officials.

“Mr. Sandoval’s intimate involvement is of particular concern in light of the fact that he was named by three law firms as being a central player in the alleged criminal actions involving the Nation and OnSat, the E-Rate Program and BCDS,” Balaran said. “The timing of the proposed destruction appears particularly coincidental – coming on the heels of the Special Prosecutor’s imminent departure.”

Destruction of the records would make it virtually impossible for a new special prosecutor to pinpoint those involved in any of the alleged events cited in the special prosecutor’s complaints. The loss of records also would place the new special prosecutor “in the untenable position of being unable to subpoena any records with the assurance that he or she had received all that was available only weeks earlier,” he said.

The Navajo Nation’s governmental staff has not been apprised of how the Nation intends to inventory, store, and scan all records removed from the Administration Building, and documents received to date indicate there is no plan, according to Balaran.

“Indeed, the one outside company with whom the Nation has contracted to assist with the assessment of environmental contamination, ‘Environmental Consultant, Inc.’ is not licensed to do business in either New Mexico or Arizona.”

Laura Johnson, a manager with the Office of the Controller, stated in an affidavit that around Aug. 31, the entire staff in the Administration Building were informed that the Nation intended to close the building and clean it, beginning Sept. 2 due to “mold.”

On Sept. 6, financial personnel were allowed to return to work. “It was noted some of the staff items were moved out of its usual area,” she stated.

On Sept. 8, staff were told the building still had a mold issue and would be closed again beginning Sept. 9, with no definite date of reopening. “We were advised to take what we could since we may not be allowed back in for weeks,” Johnson said.

As of Sept. 20, financial personnel were informed that the building would be closed for six months to a year. “They were further informed that all documents in the building were contaminated and would be scanned and destroyed. All of the door locks were changed,” she said, adding that Sandoval was spearheading the decontamination effort.

The Office of the Controller maintains hundreds of thousands if not millions of documents supporting the Nation’s accounting needs. “Many of these documents are originals in paper form that, if lost or destroyed, cannot be duplicated,” the affidavit states.

In the order issued at 3:38 p.m., Judge Perry noted the “significant implications” to the case The Navajo Nation v. Alice W. Benally, et. al., associated with the alleged destruction of the Nation’s financial documents.

Perry said the court was aware that Balaran had been trying to obtain various financial documents during his investigation and tenure as special prosecutor. She said the court must consider whether the procedures currently in place are adequate to protect the Nation’s financial records as they relate to the ongoing case.

“As such, the Court is forced to balance the severity of the potential harm associated with the allegations of the destruction of financial documents, against the hardship that may be caused by temporarily halting Navajo Nation Occupational Safety and Health’s ongoing efforts to address mold in Administration Building One.”

Upon review, Perry granted Balaran’s temporary restraining order and set a hearing for 11 a.m. Monday on the motion for a preliminary injunction to determine whether the allegations have merit. She ordered Sandoval, incident commander Wilfred Keeto and any other Navajo Nation employees instrumental to the cleanup efforts and Operation Breathe Safe to be in attendance, with counsel, at the preliminary hearing.

Navajo Division of Public Safety was ordered to stop Navajo OSHA’s cleanup efforts, secure the premises – down to replacing the locks if necessary – and not permit any employees into the building until the court decides the pending motion. She instructed law enforcement to take any violators into custody.

During a Sept. 15 Budget and Finance Committee meeting, Controller Mark Grant stated that the building was vacant and that they were “in the process of contracting for security.”

“We don’t want anyone breaking in now and just having a good time throwing documents around. I think that would be very damaging if that happened. Our servers are still in the building and we don’t want anybody messing with those,” Grant said.