Feds distribute $3.6 million to four states, three tribes

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency is receiving a $336,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure tribal water quality standards are protecting water usage for livestock and agricultural irrigation.

The grant is part of $3.6 million distributed to New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, the Navajo Nation, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, according to a U.S. EPA press release issued on Thursday.

The four states and three tribes are part of a program to develop and implement a long-term, water-quality monitoring program for the San Juan watershed, which encompasses the Animas and San Juan rivers and Lake Powell.

The release states the Navajo EPA will use the funding to assess whether current water-quality standards protect livestock and irrigation use in the San Juan River basin. The tribal agency will collect water-quality and sediment data to determine if existing standards need revision.

Information collected by the Navajo EPA will be shared with the states and other tribes as part of the regional partnership.

"The Gold King Mine spill has helped identify areas in water monitoring that the Navajo Nation needs to improve. We need a long-term water-monitoring program. We appreciate the U.S. EPA for providing resources to address the water-quality issues the nation faces," Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in the release.

The August 2015 spill released more than three million gallons of acid mine drainage into the Animas River, a tributary to the San Juan River, which flows through the northern region of the Navajo Nation before connecting to Lake Powell near Page, Arizona.

The monitoring program was the result of congressional action in 2017 to bring entities together to sample, monitor and assess watershed quality for the San Juan River, the Animas River and Lake Powell.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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