Navajo President Ben Shelly Meets With Senator Jon Kyl to Discuss Water Settlement
Weekly Edition | May 2 | By: Jared King
Washington, D.C. – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly met with Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl last Thursday to discuss the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Settlement Agreement and its companion legislation, S 2109.
“I wanted to meet directly with Senator Kyl to talk about the concerns the Navajo people raised at the water settlement forums we had during the past two weeks,” President Shelly stated. “Some of our Navajo people are concerned with portions of the language in this bill and want to be sure that we are protecting our water rights while ensuring that we get the water projects promised in the settlement.”
The Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission and the Office of the President and Vice President coordinated a series of seven community forums to educate community members about the settlement and the bill and to answer questions. The forums were held in communities that would be directly affected by the proposed settlement.
The settlement and senate bill were met with criticism by some community members and grassroots organizations that contend the settlement process was not transparent and question some aspects of the water settlement agreement.
During the hour-long meeting, President Shelly and Sen. Kyl discussed ways to address concerns of community members by making it absolutely clear that the Navajo Nation does not waive any claims to the main stem of the Colorado River. They also discussed other potential changes to the bill that would clarify portions of the legislation that have caused confusion. The president and senator also discussed the objections raised by community members and the Navajo Nation Council concerning the Navajo Generating Station-related provisions in the legislation.
President Shelly stated, “This settlement has many positive aspects and I look forward to continuing the work necessary to bring these projects to our communities. Water settlements are never easy and agreements must be made to bring conclusion to our long standing claims for the benefit of the people.”
Sen. Kyl reiterated that the legislation embodied the agreement among the parties’ representatives and was intended to begin a transparent dialogue about the legislative process. Sen. Kyl also assured President Shelly that the legislation will not be considered for further action until all parties are in agreement.
“It is now up to the tribes, as well as the other parties, to evaluate the facts and make a decision,” Sen. Kyl said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, President Shelly and Sen. Kyl agreed to continue working together to assure the transparent consideration of the proposed settlement.