Navajo Utah Commission holds special meeting to discuss Water Rights settlement
by David Boyle
Tribal, federal and state agencies are working through the next steps to bring water infrastructure to the Navajo Utah strip.
Federal and state representatives outlined the next steps at recent meetings in Montezuma Creek and Monument Valley (see SJR July 19, 2023)
More recently Navajo Nation Leaders met on June 30 to receive an update on the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement.
In May 2022, representatives of the state of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and the Federal Government signed the Utah Navajo Water Rights Settlement.
That signing concluded 18 years of formal negotiations between the parties and affirmed water rights in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, as well as providing $218 million for water infrastructure in the Utah Navajo strip.
The settlement recognizes a reserved water right of 81,500 acre-feet of water annually for current and future use by the Navajo Nation in the State of Utah from the San Juan River and its tributaries.
With the settlement formalized, the Navajo Nation, State of Utah and federal government are working on the next to steps to see the impacts of the settlement.
At a June 3th special meeting members of the Navajo Utah Commission met in Montezuma Creek. Members of the commission include chapter leaders from chapters located on the Navajo-Utah strip as well as the three Navajo Nation Council Delegates including Shaandiin Parrish (Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso, Kayenta), Herman Daniels, Jr. (Tsah Bii Kin, Navajo Mountain, Shonto, and Oljato), and Curtis Yanito (Mexican Water, To’likan, Teecnospos, Aneth, and Red Mesa).
The meeting was facilitated by Patricia Blackhorn, Chairperson. Clarence Rockwell, Executive Director of the NUC was also present.
The purpose of the meeting was to provide an update on the implementation progress of the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement.
The meeting began with an update from Dr. Crystal Tulley-Cordova, Principal Hydrologist with the Navajo Nation Department of Water Resources - Water Management Branch.
Tully-Cordova described the State of Utah adjudication process, and the Hydrographic Survey Reporting still in progress. She explained water infrastructure projects that were identified in 2014 to secure the $210 million Navajo - Utah Water Rights Settlement funding.
She assured the Navajo Utah Commission that water infrastructure projects using the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement funding have yet to be determined. She highlighted there is a need to reassess the status of projects previously identified and determine the existing water infrastructure project needs given the funding opportunities for Navajo Utah water infrastructure projects funded by the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Thereafter, Ms. Eunice Tso of ETD, Inc. gave a presentation regarding the Navajo Water Rights Commission’s public outreach effort.
She outlined the components of the public outreach plan. She mentioned the importance of developing the public’s support for water projects. Mr. Clarence
Rockwell mentioned that the NUC would like a more detailed workshop on this concept plan that would include Navajo Utah Chapter leaders in the Navajo language along with background information to help them fully understand the plan.