U.S. Water News Online
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation Council has
approved a proposed settlement that would end a decades-old lawsuit
regarding water rights in the San Juan Basin of northwest New Mexico.
The council attempted to take up the matter at an earlier meeting
but did not have a quorum. During a special session, the council
finished reading the settlement into the record and voted 62-18 in
favor of the deal.
The settlement agreement establishes the Navajos' rights to more
than more than 600,000 acre-feet of water -- about 56 percent of the
available depletion water on the San Juan Basin.
In return, the Navajos would give up 44 percent of their water
right claim in the basin.
Some people had concerns that the settlement would result in
off-reservation water users losing their rights, but New Mexico State
Engineer John D'Antonio said the agreement would protect non-Navajo
water right owners.
The settlement is the result of closed-door negotiations between
the engineer's office and the tribe, which spans parts of New Mexico,
Arizona and Utah.
The state engineer's office released the first draft of the
settlement Dec. 5, 2003. A second draft was released July 9 after
public comments and a third draft was released this month.
The latest draft removed more than $372 million that would have
been used to help finish the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project, a
canal system at the Navajo Agricultural Product Industry's farm south
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., had insisted on the removal of the
funding because he said the overall settlement was too expensive for
In addition to Congress, the state attorney general and the New
Mexico Interstate Stream Commission must approve the settlement.
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