Today, Arizona’s U.S. senators will meet behind closed doors with the president of the Navajo Nation and members of the Navajo Nation Council to rally support for a water rights settlement that the senators introduced in Congress in February.
At a Quality Inn on reservation lands just east of Grand Canyon National Park, Republicans John Kyl and John McCain will face a Navajo leadership that is divided about the merits of Senate Bill 2109, also known as the “Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act,” which Kyl has promised to push through Congress before he leaves office next year. The former water attorney will not run for re-election, and he has made the settlement a central focus of his final legislative session.
The proposed settlement would allocate $US 199 million for the construction of three projects to supply groundwater to the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northeastern Arizona. In exchange, the tribes would waive future claims to the Little Colorado River. Access to 7.9 million cubic meters (6,411 acre-feet) of water from the Central Arizona Project would be granted, if the lease were extended for both a coal-fired power plant and its supply mine, which is located on tribal land.
“I believe this bill represents the best opportunity for all of the parties and for the American tax payer to achieve a fair result,” Kyl said, when he introduced the bill in the Senate. “The settlement resolves significant legal claims, limits legal exposure, avoids protracted litigation costs, and, most importantly, saves lives.”