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Navajo Nation President asks for tribes to be “full participants” in managing Colorado River Basin

Mar 29, 2022, 2:29 PM
Colorado river basin...
FILE - This March 5, 2008 file photo shows the Colorado River's Horseshoe Bend, near Page, Ariz. Photo credit: AP Photo/Matt York, File.

SALT LAKE CITY — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and other tribal leaders met with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Monday to advocate for tribes being involved in managing the Colorado River Basin. Water officials have been discussing how to manage the Colorado River Basin and its low water levels.

Nez and 19 other tribal leaders sent a letter to Haaland in November and asked to meet with her and discuss tribes being involved in managing the Colorado River Basin.

The current guidelines governing the Colorado River are set to expire in 2026 and the tribal leaders asked to be involved in drafting new guidelines.

A statement from the Navajo Nation said Colorado River Basin policymaking had historically excluded tribes.

“Basin Tribes’ involvement in these ongoing decisions, as well as the process of developing the Next Framework, is a necessity with regard to, and in recognition of, the impacts to Basin Tribes
of the continuing drought and looming basin-wide shortages,” the letter read.

Nez said the future of the Colorado River Basin directly impacts Navajo Communities’ access to water. He said 30 to 40% of Navajo people don’t have running water. 

A statement from the Navajo Nation said Haaland responded to the letter in December and was supportive of tribes being more involved. 

“Secretary Haaland also invited the tribal leaders to Monday’s listening session, and committed to additional government-to-government consultation and designated Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo to serve as the point of contact,” the statement read.

Haaland traveled to New Mexico for a two-day visit to highlight President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which aims to address access to water and invest in underrepresented communities.

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Navajo Nation President asks for tribes to be “full participants” in managing Colorado River Basin