Larissa Jimmy/Navajo Times
A horse near Cottonwood, Arizona with its face and lower body stuck in clay mud, a result of wading into the sticky, deadly mud puddles in search of water.

Navajo President Ben Shelly Signs $3 Million Drought Relief Bill

July 29, 2013

Under a state of emergency and watching its horses die of thirst, the Navajo Nation is getting $3 million of relief from the tribe's coffers.

“We need to get help out there to the communities,” said President Ben Shelly on July 25 upon signing a bill to provide $3 million in relief. “We declared an emergency because of the drought, now we need to make resources available to help our people. We are in difficult times and thankful for the recent rains, but we still have to create plans to manage the drought.”

The bill, known as Legislation CJY-44-13, will give about $1.4 million to the Department of Agriculture for feral horse round ups, and $202,761 to the Department of Resource Enforcement and the remainder to the Navajo Department of Water Resources for well and windmill repairs, the Navajo Nation said in a press release. The money will come from the Undesignated Unreserved Fund Balance, the tribe said.

The tribe said that Western Agency’s precipitation is 65 percent below normal for the year, Fort Defiance Agency is 63 percent below normal, and Northern and Eastern agencies are 55 percent lower than normal. Chinle Agency is 30 percent below average, the tribe said. Despite that, the seasonal monsoon rains, while welcome, are compounding the problem by causing flash flooding in dried-out areas, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

All executive departments have been instructed update and revise a drought management plan, Shelly said.

The Navajo Nation has been plagued with drought for several years, but the effects are of late ever more dire. Roaming horses desperate for water are dying after wading into sticky mud puddles that turn into virtual quicksand. Shelly declared a state of emergency on July 1.

RELATED: Horses Dying as Navajo Nation Declares Drought Emergency

Drought was the opening subject of Shelly’s State of the Navajo Nation address on Monday July 15, the Navajo Times reported.

"We are in some challenging times right now as we look to the Holy People to continue to bless us with moisture," he said.

“I support drought relief, and I am thankful that we could work through the laws of our Nation to provide much needed resources to our Navajo departments and Rangers,” Shelly said in the drought-relief statement, alluding to some budgetary snafus that had caused him to veto a bill earlier in the month.

“We are going to help our people through these tough times. I know it’s difficult with little vegetation for our livestock and small yielding crops,” he said. “We are strong people and we will persevere through these challenging times.”

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