Council wants more public input on water pact

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 30, 2010

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The Navajo Nation Council voted 49-32 to table the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Settlement Agreement for nine days of public hearings and a council work session.

About 45 minutes later, the Council voted on a motion to enable Speaker Lawrence Morgan (Iyanbito/Pinedale) to allow for more time than nine days of deliberations.

That vote failed, 48 against and 24 in favor.

Delegate Amos Johnson (Forest Lake/Kíts'íílí/Tsé Ch'ízhí) led the call to table the water settlement so the Navajo Nation's Water Rights Commission and Department of Justice could hold public hearings and have a work session with the council.

Johnson picked up the 300-page water compact and said he's only read to page 16.

He questioned why the proposed agreement wasn't provided to the delegates at least a week before the special session.

"We're doing this on behalf of our children," Johnson said. "And when you become a leader, you don't think of today but 50 years in the future. And that's what the discussion is about here, 100 years ahead for our children and grandchildren.

'How are they going to use water?" he asked. "Is there enough water for them to use in the future?"

Delegate Leslie Dele (Tonalea) seconded Johnson's motion.

Before the Council voted the tabling motion, Delegate Glojean Todacheene (Shiprock) questioned whether an Oct. 13 deadline regarding a lawsuit between the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe would be jeopardized by tabling the pact.

Navajo Nation water rights attorney Stanley Pollack explained that the federal court had set the October deadline for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe to settlement a lawsuit over the Navajo Aquifer, which involved the Hopi claiming "priority senior rights."

"As far as taking more time, the council can do that," Pollack added. "But taking a lot of time is not a good thing. I'm not saying that the settlement would fall apart in a week.

"But there are a number of reasons why taking a lot of time doesn't work," he said. "There are a lot of people competing for water and money."

They might think of taking up the settlement on Columbus Day, which could be their act of "defiance," Pollack told the delegates with a smile.

Morgan noted to the Council after the tabling vote that the water agreement would return to them without changes.

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