Navajo President Ben Shelly Encouraged by the Enactment of Legislation to Fund Navajo Water Rights Settlement in Utah

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Contact: Jared King
Navajo Nation Washington Office
T 202.682.7390
C 202.200.0625
jking@nnwo.org
www.nnwo.org

For Immediate Release

Navajo President Ben Shelly Encouraged by the Enactment of Legislation to Fund Navajo Water Rights Settlement in Utah

WASHINGTON—Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is encouraged by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signing into law Utah HB 127 on March 22. The bill authorizes a $2 million appropriation as a portion of the state’s commitment to a proposed water settlement between the state and the Navajo Nation.
 
“Gov. Herbert took an important step when he included funding for the water settlement in his fiscal 2013 budget,” President Shelly said. Utah State Rep. Christine Watkins (D-Price) introduced the bill and President Shelly expressed appreciation for her efforts.

President Shelly acknowledged that the authorization of an initial appropriation in the amount of $2 million in the bill “is a tangible expression of the State’s support for the settlement.” Congress has required a state financial contribution in all Indian water rights settlements approved in recent years.

The legislation creates the Navajo Water Rights Negotiation Account to receive funds appropriated by Utah that will be used to build water delivery infrastructure projects within the Utah portion of the Navajo reservation.

The process to amicably resolve the Navajo Nation’s water rights claims in Utah was formally initiated in 2003 when the Navajo Nation and the state entered into a Memorandum of Understanding committing them to pursue a water rights settlement. Since then, representatives of the state and the Navajo Nation have developed a draft water rights settlement agreement, and proposed federal legislation to ratify the settlement and authorize the construction of the water delivery projects.
 
The Utah legislation provides that money can be appropriated from the Navajo Water Rights Negotiation Account once the United States has executed the agreement, as authorized by the federal legislation, and the state has entered into a project repayment agreement with the United States.  

The settlement agreement will need to be approved by the Navajo Nation Council, the Utah State Legislature and the United States Congress.

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