Passed Omnibus Package Includes Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act

WINDOW ROCK – The omnibus appropriations package passed on Monday includes the approval of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act. Now Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer are urging President Trump to approve the package in order to provide water resources for Navajo people in the state of Utah.

More than 40-percent of Navajo households in Utah lack running water or adequate sanitation. In some cases, such as in the community of Oljato on the Arizona-Utah border, a single spigot on a desolate road, miles from any residence, serves 900 people.

The Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act will:

  • Settle all current and future claims by the Navajo Nation for water rights within Utah
  • Ratify the proposed water rights settlement between the Navajo Nation and the State of Utah, confirming the Navajo Nation’s right to deplete 81,500 acre-feet of water per year from Utah’s Colorado River Basin apportionment
  • Authorize approximately $220 million for water infrastructure to provide water infrastructure, which will provide clean drinking water, to Navajo communities in Utah
  • In June 2019, President Nez testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife in June 2019, calling on lawmakers to pass the settlement legislation.

    The Water Rights Settlement is also supported through a resolution passed by the Navajo Nation Council.

    “All of the countless hours spent negotiating, lobbying, and pushing this historic water settlement over the years by so many leaders has finally paid off. Through the combined efforts of many advocates and leaders over the years, we are confident that our Navajo people in the state of Utah will receive the clean water resources they deserve. We truly appreciate all of the support from the House and Senate. I am confident that President Trump will sign the water settlement into law,” said Lizer.

    The spending package also includes the following provisions for tribes:
    – An additional $5 million for Tribal Epidemiology Centers to help respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
    – $13 million for Esther Martinez Native American Language programs to fund community-based language revitalization efforts
    – $21 million for Early Childhood and Family Development programs under the Bureau of Indian Education
    – A study of Bureau of Indian Education teacher and counselor pay to ensure compensation keeps pace with Department of Defense pay, as required by law, and to prevent resources from being diverted from other priorities that could impact students’ education;
    – More than $5 million for the Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institutions program, which makes grants to colleges and universities that enroll at least 10 percent Native American students
    – Additional funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act enforcement
    – Funding to maintain school bus routes

    About Staff Reporter 286 Articles
    Huey Freeman, who has recently been serving as executive editor of Arizona Daily Independent, previously worked as a reporter for daily newspapers in Central Illinois. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has been an adjunct professor at Millikin University and Eastern Illinois University. An author of two published books, he is working on two books on the southern border. Huey is married, with four adult children.