Tohono O'odham Nation of Arizona


The nation has begun receiving a share of Central Arizona Project water, 18 years after the tribe settled a landmark water-rights claim with the federal government and non-Indian water users. The tribe celebrated as water, drawn from the Colorado River, began spilling from a pipe into concrete trenches crossing the 2,500-acre Schuk Toak Farm June 29. "This is a big day for us," Tohono O'odham Chairman Edward D. Manuel said. "For centuries we have been farming. It was our survival. One of the reasons we went after the settlement was for farming." Manuel said the farming is an opportunity for the 23,000-member tribe to expand its economic base beyond income from its two casinos. The Southern Arizona Water Settlement Act of 1982 settled a lawsuit filed five years earlier, charging that the city of Tucson, mines and other major water users had sucked water from beneath the tribe's San Xavier and Schuk Toak districts. A trust fund from the settlement, now more than $30 million, will pay for water delivery to the tribe. Manuel said environmental concerns and design accounted for the delay in getting the water to the new farm.

Cyprus Toronto Corp. of Casa Grande, Ariz., has agreed to pay penalties and to complete projects totaling $325,000 for failing to immediately notify the National Response Center after a release of sulfuric acid into the environment, a violation of the Superfund law. Keith Takata of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the settlement will greatly benefit the nation. "The money will be used to help determine the long-term environmental impact on the Tohono O'odham Nation's groundwater resources and to purchase emergency response equipment." The settlement includes a $100,000 civil penalty, plus $75,000 for emergency equipment to the nation and $150,000 for geochemical and hydrogeological characterization of evaporation ponds on the Cyprus Tohono Mine site. The corporation operates a copper mining operation on leased land from the nation in the Sif Oidak District of the reservation in Pinal County, Ariz. A subsidiary of Phelps Dodge Corp., Cyprus Tohono uses sulphuric acid to leach copper from ore.