#AnimasRiver: Navajo farmers seek new water source for irrigation — Farmington Daily Times

The Animas flows orange through Durango on Aug. 7, 2015, two days after the Gold King Mine spill. (Photo by Esmé Cadiente | www.terraprojectdiaries.com)

From the Farmington Daily Times (Steve Garrison):

The Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture on Monday released a preliminary survey of damages from the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine spill.

The department estimated farmers from the Shiprock and Tsé Daa K’aan chapters will suffer a total of $569,700 in damages over the next five years as a result of the spill, which released millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers. Shiprock and Tsé Daa K’aan ranchers are expected to lose $103,200 during that same period, according to data released by the department.

Charmaine Hosteen, an extension agent with the agriculture department, said the estimates are based on visits by department staff to farms in the two chapters. She said, however, the data is incomplete and has not yet been finalized.

Only 48 of 132 farms from the Tsé Daa K’aan Chapter were surveyed by employees, according to the data. In the Shiprock Chapter, 91 of 426 farms were surveyed for damages.

Hosteen said damages have not yet been assessed for the Upper Fruitland, Nenahnezad and San Juan chapters. She said a new survey will be conducted, but a date has not yet been set.

The data was presented Monday in a public meeting hosted at the Shiprock Chapter House by tribal officials from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture…

Shiprock Chapter House Farm Board representative Joe Ben Jr. said tribal officials should cede control of the irrigation head gate near the Tsé Daa K’aan Chapter House to local farmers. The head gate controls San Juan River waterflow into an irrigation canal that services farmers and ranchers throughout the region.

Ben said local farmers could act quicker than Navajo Nation officials to close the head gate in case of an emergency.

San Juan River Farm Board President Gilbert Harrison Sr. said tribal officials should consider diverting water from Navajo Dam that is intended for Navajo Agricultural Products Industry into the irrigation canal near Tsé Daa K’aan Chapter House.

Harrison said a pipeline from Navajo Dam supplies NAPI with water to irrigate 100,000 acres of land, but the tribal enterprise currently only irrigates approximately 70,000 acres of land.

Harrison said the Navajo Nation should conduct a feasibility study to determine whether that unused water could be diverted into the irrigation canal, reducing local farmers’ reliance on the San Juan River…

Donald Benn, acting executive director of the tribal EPA, said the agency was already performing water and soil testing before the Aug. 5 spill and plans to continue monitoring conditions for at least a year.

But he said his agency was not responsible for releasing the results.

“Our job as the water quality program for the Navajo Nation is to provide recommendations for the Navajo Nation president,” he said. “That is our job. What they do with the data is a different level of decision-making.”

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