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Navajos Want Irrigation Project Completed

Navajos Want Irrigation Project Completed
September 19
14:26 2016

The federal government promised to build the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project when Congress passed legislation for the NIIP in 1962.

That was 56 years ago!

Today, the project is only 75% complete and Navajo lawmakers want the government to fulfill its obligation.

Earlier this month Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez, members of the tribal council, Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Area Director Sharon Pinto and other staff members met with federal officials from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to discuss funds to complete the NIIP.

The last three 10-acre blocks of land await completion, which would allow farming development by the Navajo Agriculture Products Industry (NAPI).

NAPI was created in 1970 to operate the project and manage the tribe’s industrial agribusiness company.

But dwindling funds have virtually stalled work on the NIIP. Funding was cut from $25 million to $12.5 million – and then to its current $3.3 million.

Navajo officials told the OMB that the tribe needed $7 million a year to operate and maintain NIIP. But in recent years the government has only budgeted $4 million for NAPI.

When Congress approved the NIIP in 1962 the idea was to use 508,000 acre-feet of water from the San Juan River to irrigate the northeastern portion of the Navajo Reservation.
Adequate funding is a priority if NAPI is to continue and grow, Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates said.

President Barack Obama’s and the Senate’s 2017 fiscal year budget includes a $1.5 million increase for NAPI, according to OMB officials.

Begaye and Bates said the tribe will continue its efforts to lobby Congress for more funding.

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