Letters: Dilcon principal refutes allegations

In response to the letter to editor dated June 8, 2017, titled “Dire concerns about Dilcon school board, principal,” I would like to make the following response. This letter is inaccurate to say the least and many areas are just outright lies.

One area that really needs to be addressed is the author of this letter. Who is she and does she have a connection to the school or the community? I was contacted by many parents and community members yesterday and no one seems to know who this person is. Someone hiding behind a fake name or another person cannot be considered a reliable source.

I do not plan on answering each of these false allegations, but would like to highlight a few areas that this person, Leticia Nez, has stated in her letter. The first being violation of religious rights.

I have never refused or denied anyone leave for ceremonies or any other religious event. In some instances documentation is required by the school’s policies that, I might add, were in place before I came to Dilcon Community School. Dilcon Community School’s benefit plan even contains medicine man services that are available to all employees.

Second, at the start of the last year all of our academic staff was highly qualified and at the end of the year out of 15 certified academic employees only one was not highly qualified. That person was a substitute teacher.

Yes it is true some staff resigned, but the circumstances of each of these is of a personal nature and confidential, so this accusation is void of any facts.

The accusation that I do not listen to parents and share confidential information is absurd. I attend numerous meetings that involve parents and community members each month and my door is always open for any parent that wants to discuss any issue. Many of the staff here can verify that I am always cautioning staff that when discussing information with parents not to share other students’ information or any information that may be confidential.

Finally, the accusation about not following IEPs is false. We have an outstanding Special Education department and we are reviewed for compliance with Special Education laws each year. These reviews/inspections have found no major discrepancies.

Although I do not speak for the school board I can say in my interactions with the school board in their official capacity that their actions have been to improve our school and put our students first. The actions of the board point to consistent and sustained improvement for Dilcon Community School to ensure that the prior history of possible school closure and displacing employees does not occur again in the future.

I could go on and answer each and every allegation, but I feel this would just dignify many of these ridiculous claims. I am a highly qualified teacher and principal, and I feel my record speaks for itself.

I am happy to be here in Dilkon and a part of Dilcon Community School. I very much respect and admire the Navajo people and culture and am trying to learn more each and every day about the Navajo people.

I work closely with the school board, teachers, and staff to improve our school and give our students the best education possible. I will continue to serve in this capacity for as long as the community will allow me. Although no one is perfect, the teachers, staff, school board, and I are working diligently to improve our school and support our community.

I look forward to continuing to serve our students, staff, and the local communities.

William Wachunas
Winslow, Ariz.

Editor’s note: Following our usual procedure, we called Nez at the telephone number listed on her letter. She answered the phone and we verified her authorship.

Waivers under consideration in NGS lease are troubling

The waivers in the Navajo Generating Station replacement lease allow for further contamination of the N-aquifer and Navajo communities. There are a number of waivers in the lease that are expected of Navajo to concede to. Some of these waivers include accepting a lower standard of cleanup at the plant site and giving up the Navajo Nation’s right to oversee and regulate remediation. There’s also a waiver of sovereign immunity, which means the Navajo Nation allows itself to be sued by NGS in federal or state courts.
In addition, the Navajo Nation waives its right to sue NGS, should anything come up later down the line.

Is it possible that SRP and the other utility owners are requiring waivers around cleanup and sovereign immunity because they know there are decades worth of contamination and pollution at the NGS site?

Cleanup and remediation easily costs in the millions, if not billions, especially where coal ash is concerned.

Coal ash contains heavy metals, arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, selenium, and many other hazardous materials to human and environmental health. Exposure to these poisons over time causes cancer, developmental delay, and many other neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

The N-aquifer is a large body of pristine underground water with an areal extent of 6,250 square miles that serves many communities across Navajo and Hopi, including Shonto, Kayenta, Black Mesa, Rough Rock, Low Mountain, and many other communities. The N-aquifer is an important source of water for the Navajo and Hopi people.

Yet, there may be contamination of the N-aquifer from NGS. In a report by a hydrologist who reviewed the draft environmental impact statement on NGS and the Kayenta Mine complex, it was highlighted that there is an accumulation of contaminated groundwater under the NGS site.

Underground there are layers of rock formations, some of which are aquifers. Closer to the surface is the Carmel formation, which previously did not have any water in it, but now does and it contains high levels of heavy metals, sulfate, and total dissolved solids. The report further explains that NGS stores its coal ash in “landfills” and in lined, as well as unlined, industrial ponds.

The problem with these landfills and ponds is that they can leach into the groundwater, contaminating the water table and where there are fractures, it can go down into the aquifers.
As noted in this report, there are impacts to the N-aquifer at the NGS site that include increased concentrations of sulfate and TDS. The report also notes that the monitoring plan for the coal ash landfill and the Carmel formation does not provide adequate safeguards against long-term impacts to the groundwater resources.

Additionally, the list of contaminants that are monitored does not include what is commonly produced by coal ash. So NGS, the Office of Surface Mining, etc., are looking in the wrong place for the wrong stuff when it comes to accurately monitoring for contamination from NGS’ operations.

Coal ash waste is a big problem and the cleanup costs associated with it likely is what SRP and the other utility owners want to give up to any fool who wants to take on that responsibility.
Not to mention, there are other strong concerns myself and others have on the language of water and the 34,100 acre-feet that Navajo Nation has allowed NGS to use so long as it is in operation, but yet only 950 acre-feet is mentioned as returning to the Navajo Nation.

What plans does SRP, etc., have for the rest, as well as the 50,000 acre-feet that Navajo Nation has never given up?

Lastly, the economy has changed and reflects a shift toward renewable energy technology and unfortunately natural gas. Coal has seen its day. The NGS utility owners have moved on from NGS. Will the Navajo Nation be the last to adapt to the current market of renewable energy?

For years many of our grassroots organizations have advocated and worked on a plan to transition to renewable energy. They have ideas and the beginnings of a plan. Our communities need to come together to make this transition happen. Not all of this rests on the Council or executive branch. The waivers they are deciding on are troublesome.

I hope they read this and I hope they think on all of the information and communication myself and others have been trying to share with them as they make a decision on the replacement lease on Monday the 26th.
Please, continue to contact your delegates. They need to know that their people are watching and we want them to act strongly on our behalf and to have our future generations in mind.

SRP and its negotiating team have plenty of advocates and lawyers on their side. Our Council delegates need to act as leaders of the past acted – having the best interest of their people and homeland in mind.

Adella Begaye
Wheatfields, Ariz.

Replacement lease makes SRP too powerful

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs” — U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development.

In comparing the 1969 NGS lease agreement to today’s proposed replacement lease agreement–negotiated between the NGS negotiating team and Salt River Project, and now pending before the Navajo Nation Council for their consideration on Wednesday (June 21)–appears to compromise the water and health of our future generations.

Why I feel this way:

The 1969 agreement, Section 15 (a), clearly states, “This Agreement shall not be construed in any manner as a waiver by the Tribe of any present or prospective water rights of the tribe.”

This refers to the 34,100 acre-feet per year dedicated to the operation of NGS out of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River, which has a total of 50,000 AF. The Navajo Nation is the only community in the Upper Basin as designated years ago by the state of Arizona. The above statement implies that the Navajo Nation has the rights to all 50,000 AF, and it was never waived. All parties who signed in 1969 agreed, including the Department of Interior, SRP and its partners.

In today’s proposed replacement lease agreement, in Section 14, Water Use, 1,500 AFY shall be available for NGS and shall not be reduced or diminished.

SRP will hold certificates of water rights (not the Navajo Nation) on its behalf, and NGS for the use of a portion of 50,000 AFY. SRP will support the Navajo Nation efforts to acquire the use of a portion of the 50,000 AF once the NGS allocation is no longer necessary and the certificates granted to SRP and NGS is terminated.

Under the proposed agreement, the Navajo Nation will get only 950 AFY, but for the community of LeChee only.

Questions and Concerns:

  • The Navajo Nation loses the water rights to the 50,000 AF it currently holds under the 1969 Agreement to SRP.
  • The state will give water rights certificates to SPR.
  • The replacement lease gives 1,500 AFY to NGS and shall not be reduced or diminished while giving only 950 AFY to the Navajo Nation for use in limited immediate area of NGS.
    Only and when NGS and its participants no longer need the water and when the certificates are terminated, SRP will support the Navajo Nation for a portion of the 50,000 AF.
    Question: Why must we wait until they no longer have a need for the water and when the certificates are terminated?
  • The replacement lease goes to 2054 with an automatic two-year extension to 2056. That’s 39 more years from today. We have already been denied 48 and half years of water use (and) that will total 87 years of being prohibited from using our water.
  • Why is Peabody left out completely? Peabody and NGS share the same umbilical cord, if one goes the other goes. Both leases are scheduled to expire in December 2019.
    Peabody used up to 6,400 AFY for most of the years it’s been in operation from the precious pristine N-aquifer. What happens to Peabody’s water use?

Future of legislation: If the replacement lease undergoes major amendments (which it now has) SPR states they will reject the agreement. If the legislation fails the required two-third votes from the Navajo Nation Council, both the legislation and the replacement lease will fail, and the 1969 agreement will remain in effect and the coal production will end and decommissioning will begin July 2017.

Recommendations: I ask you, as voters of the Navajo Nation and other concerned citizens, to support our efforts by contacting your Council delegate and demanding justice by rejecting the proposed replacement lease.

As is, the proposed replacement lease is egregious. Water is only one issue, there are many other examples, such as every lease payment has strings attached – it’s not free. There are waivers of taxations and fees, waivers of sovereign immunity that will prohibit the nation from seeking any recourse from SRP for past, present and future damages; any suit will be settled in state or federal courts, not the Navajo Nation.

They have no confidence in our judicial system, our laws and judges. Navajo Nation will request to the federal government on behalf of SRP to waive six different federal laws that regulate power plants; some waivers will remain in effect forever. Navajo Nation will be powerless and will only watch the decommissioning, cleanup of coal ash, wastewater and reclamation from the sideline.

The proposed NGS replacement lease makes SRP the most powerful corporation in the entire Southwest by vesting it with powers it does not currently have. It compromises the needs and rights of our future generations. Ahe’ hee’ Nitsaago.

Percy Deal
Big Mountain, Ariz.

Looking for my foster sister

I am writing this letter in hopes of locating my sister (foster) LaVerna Begay Black. We wrote each other for a while and then lost contact. She was married to Benji Black, has a son Benji Jr. (Benny) and a daughter Meridee. I would like to reconnect with them and have them in my life.

If anyone can help me reconnect with them, please contact me. My name is Margie Ericksen Howell and my address is 6984 West LochNess Ave., Salt Lake City, Utah 84128. I am anxious to hear from them.

Margie Ericksen Howell
Salt Lake City, Utah

Be safe when using fireworks

Phantom Fireworks hopes everyone enjoys a wonderful family Independence Day holiday, and, if you use consumer fireworks, please use them safely. There is no good consumer fireworks experience if it does not emphasize safety first.

Phantom advises everyone to follow the safety rules, obey the fireworks laws where you are using them, and have the products used by a sober adult who conforms to the rules.

Phantom asks anyone using consumer fireworks to familiarize themselves with the fireworks use rules posted in the Fireworks University section of www.fireworks.com.

The primary rule is that a designated adult should handle, control, and set off the fireworks. The designated shooter must refrain from using alcohol until after the fireworks show.

There should be an adequate water supply in case of emergencies. A connected hose is best, but a fire extinguisher or even a bucket of water will do.

The audience should be a safe distance away from the launch site. Phantom advises a minimum of 35 feet from any ground-based product.

Use only one firework item at a time.

Never try to relight a product that does not work the first time.

Never place any part of your body over a firework item.

Soak spent fireworks in water overnight, then dispose of them in a nonflammable container away from the house and outside of any structure.

Enjoy the Fourth of July holiday with your family, and do so safely. Thank you.

William A. Weimer
Vice President
Phantom Fireworks
Youngstown, Ohio

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Categories: Letters