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Writings of an Independent Navajo

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Written By: Darrr - Sep• 27•10

Contributed by Native Unity (Reporter)
Saturday, July 03, 2010 10:37
Resolution To Restrict NTUA Fails
By Kathy Helms
Dine Bureau
Gallup Independent

WINDOW ROCK – A resolution which would restrict Navajo Tribal Utility Authority from providing services such as water and natural gas to off-Navajo Nation enterprises failed to gain approval of the Resources Committee last week.

Sponsor Bobby Robbins and To’ Nanees’ Dizi Chapter Vice President Robert Yazzie presented concerns Thursday regarding NTUA possibly selling water to the Hopi Tribe, stating that the chapter objects to NTUA entering into a contract with the Moenkopi Hopi Economic Development Corp. to provide water and natural gas to the $13 million hotel and conference center just across U.S. Highway 160 from Tuba City.

Presenters cited the Navajo Nation’s pending water rights settlement in Arizona, drought conditions and lack of water for Navajo residents in the Cameron, Tuba City, and Grand Canyon area as major factors.

“In Tuba City, how severe is the water shortage,” Vice Chairman Curran Hannon asked. Robbins said that when the water is low, NTUA shuts it down. The water shortage is such that many residents suffer on a daily basis from not having ready access to adequate, clean water, they said.

“Until the NTUA can adequately provide for the basic needs of our people, we will continue to strongly oppose the NTUA plan to pipe water out of our communities to support commercial development in the Hopi Village of Moenkopi,” the resolution states.

It further directs the NTUA management board and general manager to operate within the enterprise’s established purposes and authority and to abide by the terms of the water permits issued pursuant to the Navajo Nation Water Code. The code restricts the use of Navajo water to the territorial jurisdiction of the Nation unless off-Navajo use is authorized by the Navajo Nation Council.

“Why do we have to divert the water to somewhere else when we don’t have enough to support our own people,” asked To’ Nanees’ Dizi Delegate Harry Williams, who is a member of the Resources Committee.

Phil Harrison and Cecil Eriacho asked what NTUA had to say about the matter. Eriacho indicated that in NTUA’s last report to the committee, representatives stated that they on longer have a water project in the Moenkopi area, just a gas line.

Rex Kontz, NTUA deputy general manager, said there is no connection of water from NTUA to Moenkopi.

“There was a project discussed, but nothing happened. Hopi came back and said they would have paid for drilling a well, but before we could proceed, there was a cease and desist from the chapter,” he said.

Regarding the issue of selling natural gas to Hopi, Kontz said the gas is purchased off the Navajo Nation. Daniel Wauneka, construction manager, said the gas line was within the Hopi Reservation so they didn’t have to get Navajo permission to run the line.

Kontz reiterated several points he made in February regarding a similar discussion. NTUA receives federal funding and doesn’t want to jeopardize it by discriminating. In addition, the Resources Committee and other standing committees authorized NTUA to sell energy to outside entities.

The strategy behind the gas line is to get as many commercial customers as possible hooked up first because they generate larger revenue, which will enable NTUA to expand its system to serve more residential customers. NTUA serves a number of off-reservation customers in Tse Bonito and on the San Juan Southern Paiute Reservation outside Tuba City.

He said NTUA does have concerns about drought situations and has secured funding from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish watering points in some areas.

“We need water,” said Cameron Delegate Jack Colorado. “I understand there were watering points on Hopi Partitioned Land that our people used, but those have been capped and they cannot use them anymore.”

Resources Chairman George Arthur asked where Tuba City gets its water from currently. Kontz said it comes from groundwater wells.

“What is Tuba City’s position going to be if Moenkopi decides to drill a well?” Arthur questioned. “The reason I ask is, Tuba City and Moenkopi share the same groundwater. So where do you say no? I understand what your concerns are, but if you were to make this an issue and it went to court, you probably would lose.

“If Hopi develops additional water and says, ‘I’m going to give some to my neighbor,’ would you say no?”

The Navajo Nation’s water rights in Arizona have not been settled, according to Colorado. “Before the water rights are agreed to and settled, we need to establish an MOU,” he said, similar to a memorandum of understanding established between the Navajo Nation and the city of Gallup with the Navajo-Gallup pipeline.

Members of the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission gave a presentation on the Arizona water rights negotiations later in the afternoon, however, those discussions were in executive session.

“We had the opportunity to accept water coming from Leupp at no cost to the Navajo Nation,” said Resources’ Norman John II, referring to the Black Mesa Project and a proposal by Peabody Energy to tap into the Coconino Aquifer in the Leupp/Grand Falls area and run a pipeline to Black Mesa.

“I really don’t agree with this legislation,” he added. “There was the same issue back in 1991-1992. We were quoted in the Albuquerque Journal, ‘Tell the Hopis to dance more.’”

Resources’ Harry Clark told the committee that though the water shortage is a concern, “There’s no proposal at this time to move water to Moenkopi. I think the issue has been resolved.”

NTUA, in a written statement to the committee urging it to vote against the resolution, stated that the utility is not under an agreement to provide Navajo Nation water to the Moenkopi corporation and has not applied for any water permits for that purpose.

However, it must be allowed to keep down the costs of gas and water service for Navajo residents. Preventing NTUA from providing utility service to non-Navajo entities will force Navajo residents to assume the full burden of those services, it said.

The committee voted 3-3 on the resolution, with Arthur casting the tie-breaking vote. “Based on the information that’s been presented, I would oppose it,” he said. The resolution failed, 3-4, but moves on to Government Services Committee. It was approved 4-2 on June 9 by the Economic Development Committee.

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