WASHINGTON D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined New Mexico's congressional delegation to advance a vital water supply project that will provide clean, safe and reliable water to a quarter of a million people in the Navajo Nation, the City of Gallup and the Jicarilla Apache Nation. The action clears the way for resolving the Navajo Nation's long-standing water rights claims in the state.
Joining U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Salazar signed the Record of Decision for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project Planning Report and Final Environmental Impact Statement. By providing certainty for future water supplies, the project is a key to the Navajo Nation-San Juan River Basin Water Rights Settlement.
“This will allow us to move forward in helping empower and improve Native American communities,” said Salazar. “This project addresses an unfulfilled promise to support the Navajo people by providing a long-term sustainable water supply that will reduce the need for hauling water, improve health conditions on the Reservation, and provide the foundation for future economic development activity in northwestern New Mexico.”
Senator Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and sponsored the water settlement legislation in the Senate, thanked Secretary Salazar and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor for making the Navajo-Gallup Project a high priority for the Obama Administration. “Today's action means we can move ahead with this important pipeline project, finally bringing water to thousands of Navajos who are currently not served and bringing water certainty to Gallup," Bingaman said.
Senator Udall said “This settlement addresses the basic need for water and sanitation that I believe is the right of every individual, and which is long overdue in this region of New Mexico. The agreement that led to this settlement is the culmination of years of work by many parties. Today we celebrate the completion of the final EIS for the Navajo Gallup Water Supply Project, the next important step in providing a dependable water supply for the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup.”
"Water availability is a critical issue in New Mexico,” Rep. Luján noted. “Many tribal communities on the Navajo Nation do not have access to a relievable water supply, and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project will provide many of these communities with stable and reliable access to water,” Luján said. “I applaud the efforts of Senator Bingaman, Senator Udall, and Secretary Salazar to make the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project a reality."
The project will provide a reliable municipal and industrial water supply to the eastern section of the Navajo Nation, southwestern part of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and the city of Gallup, New Mexico via annual diversions of 37,376 acre-feet of water from the San Juan River. The project includes 260 miles of pipeline, 24 pumping plants, and 2 water treatment plants. (An acre-foot of water is about 325,851 gallons.)
Each of the alternatives evaluated in the Planning Report and Final Environmental Impact Statement maximize the use of existing distribution facilities. The construction cost of the preferred alternative, based on a 2007 cost estimate, is $864,000,000. Interior's Bureau of Reclamation is proceeding with environmental and cultural resource surveys, contract negotiations, design data collection, and design of facilities, and plans to initiate construction of the project in 2012 subject to appropriations.
“The proposed project, which will meet the needs of about 250,000 people in these communities by the year 2040, is a key to ending 30 years of litigation over the Navajo Nation's water rights claims,” said Reclamation Commissioner Connor. “It will allow these communities to plan for their future with a secure water supply in hand.”