Hopi Chairman Testifies Before the U.S. Senate on Water Rights
Posted in the Flagstaff Forum
Since: May 11
#1 Jun 29, 2011
6.28.10 (Washington, D.C.) Testifying today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Roundtable on Examining the Future of Water in Indian Country, Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said there is a proposed water rights settlement for the Little Colorado River that the Hopi Tribe is now considering, even though it does not yet meet the Tribes needs on a sustainable basis.
Shingoitewa said that three weeks ago, the Department of the Interior held a listening session in Phoenix to help it determine how to allocate approximately 43,500 acre-feet per year of Central Arizona Project non-Indian agriculture water and nearly 10,000 acre-feet per year of other prioritized non-Indian agricultural water to address tribal water rights.
He said with 10 tribes competing for this small amount of very junior, interruptible water -- it is not nearly enough water to address all the tribes needs. Additionally, the latter water source would only be available for 100 years.
Shingtoitewa pointed out that the federal interpretation of the Winters Doctrine now has a number of conditions and qualifications that are not a part of the original doctrine.
The original document stems from a 1908 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that an Indian reservation may reserve water for future use in an amount necessary to fulfill the purpose of the reservation, with a priority dating from the treaty that established the reservation. In the case of the Hopi Tribe, this would be 1882, the date the Tribe was originally established.
Who added the conditions and qualifications on the Winters Doctrine and when did they do it? he asked.
Specifically, he cited the following new interpretations to the Winters Doctrine:
That the purposes need to be limited to a small portion of the water available.
That the tribes have to compete with one another for that small portion.
That the rights provided should be the most junior and least secure.
That the projects to deliver that water can be postponed indefinitely.
That it is okay for tribes to have unhealthy amounts of uranium and arsenic in their water supplies.
That the yardstick against which federal trust obligations should be measured is a potential federal liability for failing to properly and timely act to secure a tribes water rights.
These conditions and qualifications appear to be federal policy today, and they need to be repealed, Shingoitewa said.The federal government needs to step up and address the real water problems faced on reservations today, including those faced by the Hopi Tribe and the other tribes represented at this meeting.
The Hopi Tribe has been in litigation over water rights for several decades and has been engaged in water right settlement discussions for more than 13 years.
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