Navajo Generating Station: It All Boils Down to Water

Editor February 28, 2013 0

Written by a Anonymous Citizen
Black Mesa Water Coalition |

Today, February 28, is the most recent “deadline” presented to the Navajo Nation Council to pass a resolution to approve a secretly negotiated agreement affecting the future of Navajo Generating Station (NGS). Throughout 2012, Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, Salt River Project, Central Arizona Project, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, Navajo Nation water attorney Stanley Pollock, and other officials imposed earlier deadlines to approve the Little Colorado River Water Settlement. However, when terms of the negotiated settlement combined with the language of Kyl’s legislation were made public, Navajo citizens objected, and the Council let those deadlines pass.

Now the Council is being presented with a NGS land lease renewal and a promise by NGS owners to pay $42 million per year beginning in 2019. Other terms of the lease renewal agreement have not been made public. Salt River Project (SRP) has reportedly offered a $1 million “signing bonus” if the Council passes a resolution to approve the new lease by the end of today.

Why would SRP be in such a rush to have the lease approved? It all boils down to water.

Salt River Project is currently renewing its 1969 agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior to pump up to 34,100 acre-feet per year from Lake Powell to run the steam boilers and cooling systems at NGS. Those negotiations have not been open to the public.

On December 11, 1968, the Navajo Tribal Council passed a resolution that begins by citing its request that “…Secretary of the Interior take all necessary steps…to affirm the right of the Navajo Tribe to 50,000 acre-feet of water allocated to the State of Arizona under the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact.” The resolution states that “…the Navajo Tribe of Indians agrees that they will not make demands upon the 50,000 acre-feet of water per year allocated to the State of Arizona….” The resolution ends by saying that “If, for any reason, this resolution is terminated or expires…, the Secretary of the Interior shall take the necessary action to have the 34,100 acre-feet of water per year, allocated to the coal-fuel power plant on the Navajo reservation…returned to the Navajo Tribe for their exclusive use and benefit.”

The reason why the Navajo Nation can legitimately claim all of the 50,000 acre-feet of Upper Basin water allocated to Arizona is because every drop of water that flows into the Upper Basin above Lees Ferry, Arizona falls on the Navajo Reservation. Senator Ky’s legislation added language to the Little Colorado River Water Settlement that would have permanently eliminated any opportunity for the Navajo Nation to claim rights to Arizona’s Upper Basin water allocation.

Salt River Project began as an agricultural improvement district organized under the laws of the State of Arizona and has had exclusive use of Arizona’s Upper Basin Water rights for nearly 50 years. Why would they be willing to give up those rights without a fight? Instead of being up front about it, they are using jobs and benefits to the Navajo and Hopi people as a smokescreen to protect Arizona’s claim to 50,000 acre-feet of Navajo water…an alibi for water theft.

If that amount of water was sold to Las Vegas at the bargain price of $2,000/af, it would be worth $100 million per year. No wonder SRP is willing to offer the Navajo Nation $42 million starting in 2019. And if the resolution is inked today, they’ll toss in another million.

It all boils down to water.