Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood talks about road damage Thursday near Navajo 367 in Upper Fruitland.
Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood talks about road damage Thursday near Navajo 367 in Upper Fruitland. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

Upper Fruitland — Heavy flooding last September washed out portions of Route 562, but repairs have not yet begun.

Residents are worried and questioning when the road will be repaired, said Upper Fruitland Chapter president Hubert T. Harwood.

As Harwood stood near a gap in the road wide enough to fit a double-wide trailer, he said chapter officials have approached tribal and federal entities to repair the road but no one will assume responsibility.

"It was like a volleyball game with them guys — back and forth — when it came to who is responsible," Harwood said.

A section of Road 562 is seen completely washed out Thursday in Upper Fruitland.
A section of Road 562 is seen completely washed out Thursday in Upper Fruitland. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

Shortly after flooding damaged the road, debris was removed by Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority, which also delivered culverts to the location for repair work. But those workers were called away when an earthen dam in Crownpoint almost breached.

Harwood said the culverts are still there but no work has started.

"That's where it's at. It's dead stalled. NECA never came back and no one has ever since moved on that thing. It is what it is," he said.

Larry Joe, a transportation planner with the Navajo Division of Transportation, said the division has no jurisdiction over the roads and the maintenance for Route 562 is under the Bureau of Indian Affairs Road Department.

A request for comment from NECA and the BIA Road Department had not been returned as of late Wednesday afternoon.

Rose Whitehair, director of the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management, said the tribe is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State of New Mexico Emergency Management Office on the disaster recovery efforts for damages caused by the monsoon season that stretches from July to September.

Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood talks about road damage Thursday in Upper Fruitland on Road 562.
Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood talks about road damage Thursday in Upper Fruitland on Road 562. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

She said a majority of New Mexico chapters were impacted by flooding, with damages totaling about $2 million.

"FEMA Public Assistance funds can be used for BIA roads, which gives us unique road issues. BIA/NDOT/county all have different and specific right-of-way procedures, procurement or compliance issues that have to be addressed for roadwork to get done," Whitehair said.

Navajo Route 367 is another road that has sustained damage and is in need of repairs.

The road has been closed for more than a year because a section of it collapsed and another portion is developing a large crack.

The closure, Harwood said, is causing residents to find other routes, increasing traffic on Navajo Route 36.

Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood walks along a washed out portion of Road 562 Thursday in Upper Fruitland.
Upper Fruitland Chapter President Hubert Harwood walks along a washed out portion of Road 562 Thursday in Upper Fruitland. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

Doug Dockter, assistant construction engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said the agency is aware of the problem and is working with NECA to address the issue.

He said the first area collapsed from years of overtopping by the irrigation canal that runs alongside the road.

The second area was repaved after construction of the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline, which supplies water to Farmington, Upper Fruitland, San Juan, Hogback, Nenahnezad and Shiprock, but has developed cracks from water leaking out of the irrigation canal.

"Construction of the pipeline did not cause the problem at all," he said then added that the Bureau of Reclamation is concerned with the drainage because it could damage the pipeline.

The agency has submitted a proposal to protect the pipeline by constructing new drainage along the roadside, Dockter said.

"I can't give a time line but we are definitely aware of the situation and working on it," he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.