years after Congress first authorized it, Colorado's controversial
Animas-La Plata water project still awaits federal funding. But
recent events indicate its latest incarnation is alive and kicking
(HCN, 11/11/96: Cease-fire called on the Animas-La Plata front). In
late October, the Animas- La Plata bill, sponsored by Sen. Ben
Campbell, R-Colo., passed the Senate; congressional leaders say the
bill could become a rider on spending legislation when Congress
resumes Dec. 5.
The legislation would divert the
Animas River to a reservoir west of Durango, Colo., to provide
water for several local water districts, the Navajo Nation and two
Ute Indian tribes. The $344 million project would include $40
million for the Utes to buy additional water rights guaranteed
under a settlement with the federal government in 1988.
Both the Clinton administration and Campbell
told lawmakers that the federal government had an obligation to the
Utes to pass the dam bill.
"From our perspective,
it was the moral thing to do," says Campbell spokesman James Doyle,
noting that the tribes withheld their right to sue this year
because legislation was progressing in
Critics say Campbell is really
concerned about getting more water for Anglos. Just before his bill
passed the Senate, Campbell changed language so that three-fourths
of the $40 million Ute water fund would have to be spent through
joint IndianÐnon-Indian decisions. He also set aside 10
percent of the project's water for the state of Colorado.
Sage Remington of the Southern Ute Grassroots
Organization believes that under Campbell's bill, money originally
set aside for the Ute water fund could be used to pipe water to
non-Indians. "We're concerned about who's going to benefit from the
project," says Remington.