September 27, 2016--Lake Nighthorse: “It’s like a pitcher on a high shelf we can’t reach” — Manuel Heart (Coyote Gulch)

Representatives of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe were in Washington D.C. for President Barack Obama’s eighth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, according to this report from Jim Mimiaga writing for The Cortez Journal. President Obama was informed that the Ute Mountain Utes back a Bears Ears National Monument and fulfillment of original intent of the Animas-La Plata Project to build supply infrastructure. Here’s an excerpt:

…councilwoman Regina Whiteskunk…also reminded Obama of the Bears Ears Monument plan, which is supported by a coalition of five tribal leaders in the Southwest. “I was able to shake President Obama’s hand and said ‘Remember Bears Ears,’ and he responded, ‘There is still work to do’,” Whiteskunk said. “It was not a ‘No,’ so I am pushing forward and maintain the thought that it can still get done.”

Currently, a key issue for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe is delivering water to the reservation from Lake Nighthorse near Durango, [Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart] said. The tribe owns 40 percent of the water in the 120,000-acre-foot reservoir, and a component of the Animas-La Plata Project built to satisfy Ute Mountain, Southern Ute and Navajo water rights. But while much of the lake’s water is owned by the Ute Mountain Utes, it is out of reach for practical uses, Heart said. “It’s like a pitcher on a high shelf we can’t reach. We need delivery to our land, which was initially promised but was eventually cut out, so we have been fighting to get that back.” One possibility is to use local rivers to deliver the water to the reservation. It could be released from the Lake Nighthorse spillway into the Animas River, then flow to the San Juan River, which meets up with the Ute Mountain reservation near the Four Corners Monument. Heart said that idea is being discussed, but has legal and topographical challenges. To view the full article visit the Coyote Gulch.