NGS rejects Council amendments

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, May 9, 2013

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wners of the Navajo Generating Station have objected the changes made to the resolution and lease extension by the Navajo Nation Council.

The rejection was made and explained in a May 7 letter to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize from Mike Hummel, associate general manager for Salt River Project.

NGS owners told tribal leaders that the amendments dealing with water rights and having the federal government sign on as a lessee are "unacceptable."

"We have a number of corrections to certain factual errors in the resolution, object to specific conditions in the Resolution, and request reconsideration of changes to Amendment No. 1," Hummel wrote.

Amendment No. 1 is the lease extension that would be between the tribe and SRP, Arizona Public Service Co., Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Nevada Energy, and Tucson Electric Power Co. and requires consent by the Council, Shelly and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Enclosed with the letter were redline revisions made by NGS owners to the resolution and lease extension.

Salt River Project operates the 2,250-megawatt power plant near Page, Ariz. It serves electricity customers in Arizona, California and Nevada and supplies energy to pump water through the Central Arizona Project.

Hummel wrote that the factual errors in the resolution have been discussed with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, so the Council can address those issues in any future legislative action.

Owners had issue with including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a party to the original 1969 lease, which expires in 2019, in the resolution.

Another issue owners had with the resolution is that it declares the United States interest in NGS is a direct conflict with its trust responsibility to the tribe.

Including this statement would "prevent" the Interior Secretary from approving the lease extension once the National Environmental Policy Act is completed, Hummel wrote.

"Therefore, inclusion of this statement as a condition creates a risk that the participants in NGS are unwilling to accept," he wrote.

Also at issue is that NGS owners are not allowed to interfere or oppose the tribe's claim to water from the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Owners also opposed SRP meeting annually with the tribe.

"SRP is willing to request such a meeting; however, because we cannot require the Navajo Nation to meet with us, we propose changing the provision to specify only that the NGS owners will request a meeting," Hummel wrote.

As far as the lease extension, owners had an issue with the Council removing the tribe's consent to the 323 Grants, which are payments made for right-of way and easement, and requiring the federal government to pay a portion of the signing bonus even if the Interior Secretary never approves the lease extension.

The second issue was the revisions made to the hiring of employees at NGS.

The Council revised this section to give Navajos employment preference to the extent allowed by law, to provide Navajo preference in all training opportunities, and to ensure that Navajos are prepared to assume employment positions at all levels.

The revised language also stated that in certain circumstances the need for critical or specialized skills at NGS would require selecting the most qualified person whether or not they are Navajo.

Owners were acceptable to language stating that if federal law prohibits employment preference based on tribal affiliation, preference would be given to qualified Indians.

The changes to the legislation and to the lease extension were passed April 29 by the Council and signed April 30 by Shelly.

"If the Council insists on the proposed changes, it is unlikely we will reach a resolution," Hummel wrote.

He added that without a lease extension in place, it would impact the ongoing discussions for a fuel contract, owner involvement, and response to the best available retrofit technology ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.





Kaibeto school IT specialist ordered to pay back $23,226

By Krista Allen
Western Agency Bureau

KAIBETO, Ariz. – A Kaibeto Boarding School employee was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and ordered to pay back the $23,226 in restitution she stole from a child sponsorship charity that helps children with clothes, food, health care, and school needs.

Marcellina Tohonnie, 36, an information technology specialist, spent the money on car repairs, clothes, trips to Las Vegas, trips to the nail salon, and other personal expenses, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The defendant was entrusted with accepting and using donations to purchase basic necessities for 47 students enrolled in the Children, Incorporated program that supports more than 20,000 children in the U.S. as well as 24 other countries.

"Over the years, it has been an honor for Children, Incorporated to offer our child sponsorship program at Kaibeto Boarding School," said Ronald H. Carter of Children, Incorporated in a letter to the school board members last year. "Unfortunately, due to a series of events beyond our control, we recently had to make the decision to discontinue our work there."

As a nonprofit organization that assists children, the agency must pay close attention to how the funds received from its donors are utilized.

Cater wrote, "Those distributing our funds must do so in agreement with our guidelines and in a timely manner. Sadly, that was not always the case at Kaibeto. Funds were accumulated over a long period of time and not properly spent to aid the children enrolled in our sponsorship program. After careful and thorough review, we decided that the program cannot continue."

An investigation conducted by the Department of Interior found that Tohonnie embezzled approximately embezzled approximately $25,000.

Embezzlement and theft from an Indian Tribal Organization is a Class A misdemeanor offense.


Tuba City artist nominated for songwriting award at NAMAs

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK – Leon Skyhorse Thomas, native singer, filmmaker and Canyon de Chelly guide, left New Mexico Thursday on his way to Niagara Falls, N.Y. for the 14th annual Native American Music Awards.

Thomas is nominated in the songwriting category for two songs he wrote more than 30 years ago when he, Dion Davis and Tyrone Davis were making music as the band Skyhorse, operating out of Tuba City.

The two songs were never published in t982 when they were written, instead, Thomas said he "put them in the vault" and took them out in 2011, listened to them and decided it was time to officially release them.

And that it what he did, releasing them as the "Lost Tapes" and publishing them through Skyhorse Productions.

He is one of more than 30 native artists who are up for the songwriting awards for 2011 at the awards ceremony.

Usually, three awards are given for the year before but Thomas explained that the original awards ceremony - set for last November, had to be postponed because of Hurricane Sandy.

Fans can vote for their favorite artist at www.nativeamericanmusicawards.com.

People can also register to vote at www.canyondechellytours.com

Thomas is not the only Navajo up for songwriter awards. Also nominated is Callie Benett for "Glorify" and JJ Otero, who is also part Hopi, for "Find My Way."

People can also listen to the songs that have been nominated as well as other songs written by Tomas by going to www.canyondechellytours.com.