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.