Shiprock Chapter opposes irrigation activities

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Shiprock Chapter will submit a resolution to the tribal president that opposes resuming the operation of the tribe's irrigation system that delivers San Juan River water to farms within the chapter boundary.

Navajo Nation officials issued restrictions for using river water for irrigation, livestock and recreational activities after toxic metals flowed into the river earlier this month from the Gold King Mine north of Silverton, Colo.

Chapter members voted in favor of the resolution 104-0 with 11 members abstaining during a special meeting Friday, chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie said.

The chapter's action came a day after Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye listened to comments and concerns about resuming irrigation activities during a public meeting in Shiprock.

During Thursday's meeting, the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency reported the river water is safe for irrigation.

Mihio Manus, the president's spokesman, said on Friday the president had not issued a decision about whether to resume irrigation.

Yazzie said chapter members approved a second resolution requesting that an alternative water source be piped from Navajo Agricultural Products Industry headquarters to the Hogback Irrigation System. That resolution passed by a vote of 84-0 with two members abstaining.

Yazzie said the pipeline project was also mentioned in a meeting at the incident command center, which was established inside the Shiprock Chapter house after the spill. Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region Director Sharon Pinto said the project is under evaluation.

"Our resolution was basically to formalize our request," Yazzie said.

Both Yazzie and Manus said Begaye attended the chapter meeting.

"He saw which way the people went. He knows Shiprock's sentiment," Yazzie said.

Begaye joined Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates and council delegates in two traditional ceremonies this week at the Gold King Mine and along the Animas River in a location north of Silverton. The ceremonies were conducted at the request of the Navajo people and were designed to restore balance to the river, Bates said in a telephone interview Friday.

He added Silverton officials were grateful and welcomed the officials and the ceremonies.

Council Delegate Otto Tso said in a statement the Navajo people are worried about their crops, livestock and land, in addition to their way of life.

"The river had provided abundance of life for our people and to the animal life along the water ways that run through the Navajo Nation," he wrote.

Tso, who represents the Tó Nanees Dizí Chapter in Arizona, stated the Navajo chanters believe offerings were needed in order to restore the people and their way of life.

"Now that our chanters have concluded with the ceremonies, we need to move forward and work with all people, all agencies, to get beyond this situation. We ask that our people throughout the Navajo Nation, to have reverence for our offerings that has been conducted for our water," Tso wrote.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.