Mexican Water Chapter declares emergency

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 21, 2012

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T he ongoing drought has hit the Mexican Water Chapter hard.

Chapter and council officials from the small remote chapter in the north central portion of the Navajo Reservation say that conditions are so bad that some families have a hard time navigating the roads because they are windswept by sand.

And sheep and cattle are finding it harder and harder to find the vegetation they need to survive.

So on June 12, the chapter's president, Jerry Tsosie, said the situation has become so bad that he officially declared an emergency. The action takes place just a day after the San Juan Commission in Utah passed a similar resolution for the entire county.

Tsosie said the chapter needs help from the tribe or from the BIA to help residents cope with the severe drought conditions.

The situation, he said, has affected the chapter's elderly who are having problems getting anywhere because of the condition of the roads.

The current drought has especially been hard on those members of the chapter who live in Arizona, the majority of whom do not have running water and must haul water sometimes as far away as 45 miles.

David John, the chapter's vice president, said many of the windmills in the area have stopped operating and residents have been told not to get water from some of the wells in the chapter because they are contaminated by uranium.

All the elected officials in the chapter say one of the main reasons the chapter finds itself in the current situation is a political one centering around the fact that the number of Utah Navajos - some 8 percent of the tribe's total population - have little or no political power in the tribal government.

Kenneth Maryboy, who represents the chapter on the Navajo Nation Council, said he sees favoritism in the Council toward Arizona and New Mexico chapters because that's where most voters are located. Since he is the only Council delegate who represents the interests of Utah Navajos, these concerns tend to be ignored by the government.

A good example of this, he said, can be seen by looking at the conditions of the chapter's roads.

Because of the wind and the sand, the roads need to be graded but because there is no memorandum of agreement with the BIA for Utah roads and the Navajo Department of Transportation doesn't have the funds to take care of them.

And while there is talk of bringing in waterlines to the community, that's still at least eight years in the future and the residents need relief immediately.

Tsosie said help should be given to families who are facing financial hardship because of their water hauling needs.

The chapter has been certified under the Local Governance Act so it gets extra funding as well as a portion of the local sales tax. But since there are few businesses in the community, the tax revenue is low and the chapter relies on the annual $160,000 appropriation, which is just enough to operate the functions of the chapter's government.

Tsosie said he is hoping that the emergency declaration would free up some funds.

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