Larry Roy shows cracks in a portion of Old N. 36 on Wednesday after it collapsed over the weekend in Fruitland.
Larry Roy shows cracks in a portion of Old N. 36 on Wednesday after it collapsed over the weekend in Fruitland. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

UPPER FRUITLAND — A section of Navajo Route 367 that some residents worried would collapse finally cracked off and slid down a hill toward the San Juan River.

The road has been closed for more than a year because a section of it collapsed and another portion developed a large crack. And then another portion gave way last weekend.

"I already knew this was going to happen," said Upper Fruitland vice president Lenora Williams.

A road that once carried vehicle traffic is now a sloped jumble of sand, rock, asphalt and blue pipes.

Shiprock Irrigation supervisor Marlin Saggboy suspects the collapse happened Sunday night because irrigation personnel did not report any trouble over the weekend.

This section was repaved after construction of the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline, which supplies water to Farmington, Upper Fruitland, San Juan, Hogback, Nenahnezad and Shiprock.

The Bureau of Reclamation installed the pipeline and worked with the Navajo Engineering and Construction Authority to complete the repaving.

Williams said she made numerous attempts to have the road repaired and tried asking local chapters to address the situation but no avail.

She also wrote letters to the Bureau of Reclamation, NECA, the Navajo Nation Water Resources Department's Shiprock Irrigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Road Department.

"None of those entities came or sent a representative, only BIA Roads. I did make an attempt to meet with them to discuss this issue," Williams said.

An irrigation canal runs along the north side of Navajo Route 367. It was not damaged by the collapse, but only a narrow strip of land remains between canal and the damaged area.

The canal is approximately 40 miles long and travels through Nenahnezad, San Juan and Upper Fruitland chapters to supply water to farms that grow squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, corn and alfalfa.

The Navajo Nation assumed responsibility for the canal in 1962 after it was transferred by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Shiprock Irrigation supervisor Marlin Saggboy talks on Wednesday at the Upper Fruitland Chapter house about the collapse of Navajo Route 367 in Fruitland.
Shiprock Irrigation supervisor Marlin Saggboy talks on Wednesday at the Upper Fruitland Chapter house about the collapse of Navajo Route 367 in Fruitland. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

Saggboy said water service was turned off in an area north of Northern Edge Navajo Casino.

The shut-off will impact farm land located in Nenahnezad and San Juan chapters until repairs are made on Navajo Route 367, he said, then added that notices were sent to local chapters and announcements were made on the radio about the situation.

Saggboy said there will be a meeting today to discuss how to repair the road but officials from other entities could not provide further details. Efforts to reach BIA Roads Department officials in Shiprock for comment were unsuccessful.

Frank Smith, NECA construction manager, said the road construction was completed according to the design standards and there have been irrigation issues with that area in the past.

"We did some construction there but we are not the ones causing the problem," Smith said.

Doug Dockter, assistant construction engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation, said the cause of the collapse is under investigation and a geotechnical engineer was examining the area on Wednesday.

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.