Guest column Council moving forward with $180 million water projects
By Speaker LoRenzo Bates
23rd Navajo Nation Council
Special to the Times
On behalf of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council, I extend my sincere appreciation to all of the entities and individuals involved in the months and years of hard work that led to the recent approval of $180 million in water projects and sanitation system projects throughout the Navajo Nation.
This represents not only the largest spending package ever approved by the Council, but it also represents a major step forward for our communities in addressing water and sanitation needs.
The funding was made possible a historic agreement signed in September 2014 that ended the Navajo Nation’s lawsuit against the United States over the mismanagement of trust fund assets, which awarded the Navajo Nation $554 million.
This Council could have sat back and waited for others to address the Navajo Nation’s overwhelming water needs, but instead the 23rd Navajo Nation Council took action and spent countless hours meeting and debating how best to proceed. The Council established the Síhasin Subcommittee, comprised of 12 Council members, who put a plan together based on seven public hearings and recommendations from other entities.
They understood that water is a basic need that is lacking in many of our communities and for many of our people including our grandmothers, grandfathers, children, and many others. The members of the Síhasin Subcommittee recognized this tremendous need and put forth legislation that was unanimously passed by the 23rd Navajo Nation Council on Jan. 28. This resulted in President Russell Begaye signing the resolution on Feb. 22.
There remains a lot of hard work ahead of us and I am confident that my Council colleagues and the many individuals involved in carrying out the projects will proceed on a path that ensures these projects are completed. This is evident by the fact that my colleagues and I are meeting with Congressional leadership and staff this week to advocate for federal funding to assist the cost of the projects.
Not only did the Council unanimously approve the funding, but the resolution also emphasizes that the Navajo Nation will seek outside funding, whether it be from the states or the federal government, to assist the cost of the projects through matching funds, grants, etc. We aim to maximize the use of outside funding while fulfilling the project listings that include $101 million for over 60 water projects and $79 million for nearly 50 sanitation system projects designed to build foundations for communities to grow and prosper.
As we move forward, I am confident that we will proceed with the objective of providing water to residents and also to provide communities with the basic infrastructure to grow their local economies and overall community development.
Lastly, I’d like to once again thank my colleagues on the 23rd Navajo Nation Council, Síhasin Subcommittee, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, Navajo Water Management, and the many others who helped to bring this historic legislation together to help our many communities and Diné Citizens. On behalf of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council – Ahéé’hee’.