Shelly meeting with Kyl, McCain behind closed doors on water bill

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, April 5, 2012

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U nited State senators Jon Kyl and McCain, both R-Ariz., are meeting today in Tuba City with members of the Navajo Nation Council, President Ben Shelly and Vice President Rex Lee Jim to discuss Senate Bill 2109, "The Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act.

Shelly said Wednesday that Kyl and McCain requested the meeting. It is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Shelly said, adding that the senators asked that it be closed to the public.

"They, senators, asked for this meeting," Shelly stated in an email. "In respect for their wishes, we are honoring their request for a private meeting. I know how important water is to our people and hope that the people will allow the leaders to interact with one another."

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Proposed settlement

The Times received an email Wednesday announcing that a protest march against S. 2109 will take place today at 11 a.m., starting at the Tuba City Chapter House and proceeding to the Legacy Inn.

Kyl and McCain are scheduled to meet with Hopi tribal leaders after their meeting with Shelly and Jim.

The Navajo Nation Council has not voted on a position on the bill, nor on the settlement agreement on which it is based.

Shelly announced Tuesday that he will hold a series of public forums to explain the proposed legislation and settlement agreement to the Navajo people.

"We need to make sure our Navajo people are informed about this bill," Shelly stated in the Tuesday release. "Water rights is always a sensitive subject, so as a leader, I must make sure our people understand what this bill means to our people."

The Council held a special session March 23 to hear a report from the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission and Navajo Nation water rights attorney Stanly Pollack about SB 2109, and then directed the commission to hold public hearings across the reservation.


During the special session, a majority of the Council delegates voiced opposition to the bill and noted their disapproval of Shelly for throwing his support behind it before it went to the people and the Council.

The forums drew immediate criticism from some community members.

Calvin Johnson of Leupp Chapter said that, at a minimum, Shelly should hold the forums at each chapter to be directly impacted by the settlement.

"But since this involves Navajo Nation water, every voter living on and off the reservation should have a say," Johnson said.

He also criticized Shelly for not conducting hearings, which allow for questions and discussion, instead of forums.

"Forums are just a way for the Navajo Nation to say, 'we informed our people and they all agree with the settlement,'" Johnson said.

The first forum is April 17 at the Greyhills High School auditorium in Tuba City, followed by forums at the Piñon High School auditorium on April 18, the Ganado Chapter on April 19, the Oak Springs Chapter House on April 20, the Leupp Chapter House on April 24, the Teesto Chapter House on April 25, and the

Fort Defiance Chapter House on April 26.

All the forums are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. and end at 7 p.m.

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