Thank you. Good afternoon. My name is Melvin Bautista. I'm the Executive Director of the Division of Natural Resources for the Navajo Nation and also a member of the Navajo
Nation. I would like to thank Chairman Doolittle of the Subcommittee on Water and Power and Chairman Hansen on the Subcommittee on National Parks, Public Alliance, as well as other distinguished Congressmen for
extending an invitation for Navajo Nation to testify at this hearing.
We are gathered here to discuss Mr. Brower's and the Sierra Club's proposal to drain Lake Powell. To abide by the recommendation of the Sierra Club
as articulated would wreak disaster upon the economic and social welfare of the Navajo Nation. It would also detrimentally and fundamentally alter a water preservation, delivery, and supply system crafted by many
decades of planning and social compromise for the sake of a myopic, selfish, impractical environmental deal.
In short, the Sierra Club's proposal does not address all of the complexities of water administration under
the upper compact and lower compact States. It also does not address the adverse impacts on Navajo water rights, Navajo economic development concerns, or Navajo social welfare.
Water is life in the western region of
the Continental United States. Water considerations affect land and economic development plans and opportunities for all those who live here, including the Navajo Nation.
The Colorado River is a primary water supply
and ground water resource in the Colorado Basin States. The Navajo nation has reserved water rights with a priority to date that relates back to creation of our reservation by the Federal Government.
The Navajo Nation
entered into two treaties with the United States in 1850 and 1868. It set aside an exclusive reservation exclusive for the Navajo Nation.
Navajo water rights, however, must be quantified by a court of competent
jurisdiction as part of a general stream adjudication unless the Nation authorizes a settlement approved by Congress. Thus the Navajo, like other water users in the region, is currently engaged in the general stream
adjudication for a number of rivers and basins on or near the Navajo Nation, including the Colorado River.
In Arizona versus California, the Supreme Court adjudicated water rights of five Indian tribes. The Navajo
Nation, however, was excluded from this litigation.
Two theories have been postulated to explain the exclusion of Navajo water rights. The first suggests that the Special Master limited his consideration of water
rights on the main stream of the rivers below Lake Mead. The second envisions the surrender of Navajo water rights in exchange for monetary consideration and a promise of beneficial economic developments which made
possible a construction of a Navajo generating station. Without Lake Powell, the Navajo generating station would not exist.
Moreover, in 1958, Congress authorized exchange of Navajo reservation lands for public domain
lands occupied by Navajos. Glen Canyon Dam is located on former Navajo reservation lands.
The Navajo Nation still owns the mineral estate under Lake Powell. Lake Powell flooded Navajo religious and cultural sites
forever destroying their use by Navajo people. The Navajo Nation has been deprived of its minerals and culture without compensation being paid by the Federal Government.
First and foremost, a proposal to drain Lake
Powell would create hardship for the Navajo Nation securing any readily accessible water supply. The proposal, if it is accepted, would literally destroy mining and agri-business concerns that provide most of the
financial resources the Navajo Nation expends to provide benefits to members of the Navajo Nation.
Secondly, the Navajo Agricultural Project Enterprise and Navajo Indian Irrigation Project, also referred to as NAPE,
and NIIP, would be jeopardized because it is a largely dependent upon water availability from the mainstream of the San Juan River and its tributaries for farming activities.
Water availability for NAPE and NIIP would
be reduced foreclosing the possibility about ever completing this project.
Third, the Navajo Nation believes dangerous and toxic concentrations of selenium, salt, and mercury left behind from a drained lake and
airborne by wind would detrimentally affect health and safety of Navajo people living near Lake Powell.
Fourth, there would be a significant cost increase for the public by substituting other resources to provide
energy and electricity now or in the future by hydroelectric facilities on Lake Powell. More coal may have to be burned to maintain electricity at production levels. This may contribute to increased air pollution in a
strictly regulated clean air environment.
Fifth, since many, if not all, of the native species of plant and animal life have already been destroyed or affected by Lake Powell, nonnative species would merely inhabit
the vacant space. It would be prohibitively expensive to return the environment to its original habitat. Instead, it has already been drastically affected.
Furthermore, the current endangered species of fish life
would have greater risk by encroachment of nonnative fish if Lake Powell was drained.
Lastly, revenues from the tourism industry created by Lake Powell, the Glen Canyon area, and the Navajo Nation would be drastically
affected. During the earlier years after the lake was drained, there would be no tourism attraction. Even if the environment were perfectly reclaimed, there would be only limited tourist attraction appeal, since the
recreation utility potential of the site would be greatly limited.
Many members of the Navajo Nation sell food, beverages, jewelry to tourists. This accounts for most of their income for each year. Draining Lake
Powell would absolutely destroy this means of income for Navajo vendors and enjoyment by those wanting to see and experience Lake Powell.
In conclusion, if Lake Powell is drained, then the Navajo Nation still desires
to proceed with settlements of issues with the National Park Service concerning the Navajo Nation's boundary along the Colorado River. The Nation still maintains that the shore line of the river in the vicinity of the
Grand Canyon National Park is the northern and western boundary of the Navajo reservation, which includes the center line of the San Juan River as clearly defined in our treaty.
The National Park Service refuses to
accept this, even though an Arizona State court made this finding when it dismissed the citation for fishing without a license, State license within the Grand Canyon National Park to a member of the Navajo Nation. He
did possess a Navajo Nation permit.
The draining of Lake Powell would do nothing but harm the economic and social welfare of the Navajo Nation. This would greatly complicate and further delay use of Colorado River
water by the Navajo Nation. As such, the Navajo Nation respectfully requests that you reject the Sierra Club's proposal. Thank you.