U.S. Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, both Republicans representing Arizona, will visit Tuba City on Thursday, April 5, 2012, to persuade leaders of the Navajo and Hopi Nations to give up their aboriginal and treaty-guaranteed priority Water Rights by accepting a “Settlement Agreement” written to benefit some of the West’s most powerful mining and energy corporations.
Kyl and McCain introduced Senate Bill 2109 – the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2012” – on February 14, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the state’s admission to the union. The bill is on a fast track to give Arizona corporations and water interests a “100th birthday present” that will close the door forever on Navajo and Hopi food and water sovereignty, security and self-reliance. In the House of Representatives, the bill is under H.R. 4067 and is sponsored by Rep. Ben Quayle.
S.2109 asks the Navajo and Hopi to waive their priority Water Rights to the surface waters of the Little Colorado River “from time immemorial and thereafter, forever” in return for the promise of undetermined federal appropriations to supply minimal amounts of drinking water to a handful of reservation communities.
The Bill (and the “Settlement Agreement” it ratifies) do not quantify Navajo and Hopi water rights – the foundation of all other southwestern Indian Water Rights settlements to date; thereby denying the Tribes the economic market value of their water rights, and forcing them into perpetual dependence on uncertain federal funding for any water projects.
S.2109 could thwart any irrigated agriculture and water conservation projects to heal and restore Navajo and Hopi watersheds (keeping sediment from filling downstream reservoirs); to produce valuable livestock and crops for the Navajo and the Hopi, as well as their external markets; and to provide healthy food and active lifestyles for all future generations of Navajo and Hopi children. This is counter to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1908 “Winter’s Doctrine,” which explicitly reserves and safeguards the water needed for the permanent well-being and prosperity of the Navajo and Hopi.
Kyl and McCain demand that the Navajo and Hopi people relinquish all rights to the quality of surface and ground water supplies and to legal protection from any injuries incurred as a result of damage to those water supplies in the past, present and future. In other words, if anyone in those communities gets sick from, say, lead-contaminated water, they can’t sue the State of Arizona or the federal government for damages because they gave up that right by agreeing to the bill. Yet, the Navajo and Hopi really don’t know the full extent and nature of the rights they are being pressured to waive because the details of the “Settlement Agreement” are not being shared with the public.
Navajo and Hopi water and public health have already been damaged severely by past uranium and coal mining in and around their communities. Kyl and McCain now want to strip any remaining and rightful legal protections against the present and real dangers of such future contaminations.
S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require the Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually, albeit without any compensation. It also will force the extension of Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development.
Kyl and McCain are behaving like this 1912, instead of 2012 where Native Americans have civil rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. But, considering the mantra of hate the GOP has acquired in recent years, this should come as no surprise to most of us. Still, using the power of the U.S. Senate to engage in near-terroristic threats to any group is amoral and un-American. It’s appalling that this crap is occurring even now.
I’ve started a petition on Change.org to have this bill removed from consideration in the U.S. Senate: http://www.change.org/petitions/u-s-senate-remove-s-2109-from-consideration.
Thanks to fellow writer and blogger K.B. Schaller for alerting me to this.