FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly outlined the steps he has taken to ask for help with “Operation Winter Freeze” during a meeting at the Navajo Division of Transportation Complex on Thursday.
Shelly said he has sent a letter to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs asking for assistance in repairing pipelines that sustained damage during the cold snap in January. The repairs are expected to cost $2.8 million.
Currently, about 2,000 families — which equates to about 10,000 people — across the Navajo Nation are without water, though the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and other agencies are working to restore their water supply.
Shelly declared a state of emergency for the tribe last month, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer declared a state of emergency for parts of northern Arizona earlier this week.
“We are working to make sure our people get water again. We have Navajo people who are suffering, and we need to get them water,” Shelly said. “Some of our people have been without water for months.”
President Shelly called the meeting and called all Navajo Nation executive branch divisions to the meeting so they could be updated and find ways to help the people with outages.
“You work for the people. Our people are suffering right now. We can't let that happen. We have to help our people,” Shelly said.
Shelly also welcomed officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who are there helping the Navajo Nation ask United States President Barack Obama to declare a federal emergency so the tribe could receive FEMA funding the repairs.
President Obama recently signed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act, which contained amendments to the Stafford Act. The amendements allow federally recognized Native American tribes to seek a federal emergency or disaster declaration from the President of the United States.
“Keep all your records in order — from time worked, to receipts. We are going to need all our financial records to be in order if we are going to get reimbursed,” Shelly said.
The money Shelly is seeking would be enough to run the emergency operations center and to hire 15 additional crews to help with repairs.
“We are going to continue doing all we can to help our people,” Shelly said.