The following letter is an opinion piece that Hopi Tribe Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa published in The Arizona Republic on August 27, 2012. http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/20120823hopi-tribe-water-settlement-collapse.html
Hopi Tribe unfairly blamed in water-settlement collapse
by LeRoy N. Shingoitewa
I was disappointed to see the Hopi Tribe’s position on the Little Colorado River water settlement so badly mischaracterized in a Viewpoints column written by U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain (“An endless water fight,” Aug. 12).
The settlement would resolve the rights of many parties to water in the Little Colorado’s basin and was reached after 13 years of negotiations between the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, and numerous federal and state parties.
I am acutely aware of the need for water for our people. More than 40 percent of the homes on the Hopi Reservation have no running water or indoor plumbing. Many Hopi villages receive water with more than four times the allowable levels of arsenic. Water for another village is threatened by uranium pollution. We participated in the settlement negotiations to resolve these problems. There are no Hopi Tribal Council representatives who prefer litigation over settlement.
Despite our support for the settlement, the Hopi Tribal Council also voted to oppose certain provisions in Kyl’s implementing legislation that are extraneous to the water-rights settlement. Specifically, the Council objected to provisions requiring the Navajo Nation to provide water for the Navajo Generating Station or to renew coal-mining leases. Hopi negotiators did not participate in “crafting” these sections.
While these issues are very important, they are not related to ensuring an adequate, sustainable supply of water for our people. Combining these two issues was both unwise and unnecessary.
We informed Kyl of our objections when he joined these two issues. We also communicated the reasons for our position on the proposed legislation. Prior to his column, we submitted suggestions to make the legislation consistent with the settlement agreement. We asked him to remove provisions from the legislation that have nothing to do with the water settlement and to clarify ambiguities in the legislation to comport with assurances we received during the negotiating process. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a response.
Kyl and McCain unfairly blame the tribes for rejecting the settlement, even though on July 5 the Hopi Tribal Council voted to approve the settlement. All the parties to the settlement negotiations are responsible for the outcome, not just the Hopi Tribe. The state and private parties, who spent millions of dollars on legal fees for the negotiations, will have to answer to their ratepayers and customers for what is now a failed settlement.
Unfortunately, it appears Kyl and McCain have given up hope of enacting legislation to implement the settlement. We are disappointed.
I suspect many of the private parties in northeastern Arizona — who negotiated long and hard for the certainty they desire — are equally disappointed that their interests were overwhelmed by the generating station. After all, none of the power produced by the generating station is consumed in our region. It all subsidizes the pumping of Central Arizona Project water to Phoenix and Tucson.
With all due respect to Kyl, if he had not insisted on including the generating-station issue, the water settlement would be final and on its way to enactment.
I thank Arizona’s senators for their efforts to promote the settlement. In recognition of his impending retirement, I’d also like to thank Kyl for his service to the people of Arizona and wish him well in future endeavors.
The Hopi Tribe stands ready to work with his successor and Arizona’s congressional delegation to solve our water concerns, as well as those of our neighbors. The generating station should be dealt with separately, however, in recognition of the fact that it is a separate issue.
LeRoy N. Shingoitewa is chairman of the Hopi Tribe.