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Navajo Nation Officials Oppose Hopi-Flagstaff Snowmaking Settlement

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The City of Flagstaff and the Hopi Tribe have reached a settlement in the long-running lawsuit over snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks. It’ll first have to be approved by the Flagstaff City Council, but Navajo Nation officials say they oppose the agreement. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The settlement would require the city to build a $1.6 million earthen filtration system to further treat reclaimed water used for snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl.

Navajo President Russell Begaye and Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates, however, say they weren’t consulted about the agreement, and the use of reclaimed water on the Peaks is a violation of the tribe’s religious rights. They’re requesting consultation with city officials.

More than a dozen Southwestern tribes consider the San Francisco Peaks sacred and oppose snowmaking there.

The Hopi Tribe sued the City of Flagstaff in 2011 over the sale of reclaimed water for snowmaking, and said it was a public nuisance. Arizona Snowbowl began using reclaimed water in 2012 to expand its ski season, and can buy up to a million-and-a-half gallons per day between November and February.

The Flagstaff City Council this week delayed making a decision on the settlement with the Hopi Tribe. Council members were concerned about the project’s costs and wanted to involve other parties in the agreement. 

If the agreement between the city and the Hopi Tribe is finalized, the new filtration system would go into use in 2017.

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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