FARMINGTON — When it comes to developing infrastructure on tribal lands in New Mexico, the greatest need is buildings.
That is according to a report the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department presented to the Legislative Finance Committee on Thursday at San Juan College.
There are 22 tribes, nations and pueblos located solely or partially in New Mexico. That includes 54 chapters of the Navajo Nation.
Buildings are needed for administration, cultural needs, seniors and day care.
Other needs identified include infrastructure addressing water, wastewater and solid waste, and construction of roads and bridges. Concluding the list are public safety, economic development and housing.
In terms of water, wastewater and solid waste infrastructure, 61 percent of Navajo Nation chapters need those services.
Since 2006, the Tribal Infrastructure Fund, which provides capital outlay funding for critical infrastructure projects for tribes and pueblos, has assisted 54 tribal entities and provided more than $54 million in funds.
Part of Thursday's presentation was devoted to water rights settlements, including the Navajo Nation San Juan River Basin Water Rights Settlement.
A result of the settlement is the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which, when finished, will deliver water from the San Juan River to eastern sections of the Navajo Nation, the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup.
New Mexico Secretary of Indian Affairs Arthur Allison said it will be the responsibility of the Navajo Nation and the chapters to build pipelines running from the main pipeline to the communities.
The project and its cost will be "tremendous" to complete, he said.
"You are looking at distance running to communities," Allison said, adding the Tribal Infrastructure Fund is starting to receive money to address that issue, but the total cost remains unknown.
Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-McKinley and San Juan, asked about Indian Health Services funding to help with the expense of building pipelines to the chapters.
"Have they been involved with this request?" Lundstrom said. "Because the state of New Mexico is already providing a very large cash match towards the federal obligation for the main trunk line."
Lundstrom explained funding is coming from the Indian Water Rights Fund.
Allison said federal law mandates IHS only provide funding to construct water pipelines to residential areas.
"Anything beyond taking it from trunk line or anything like that, they will not be part of it," he said.
Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-McKinley, Cibola, Socorro and Valencia, and Rep. Edward Sandoval, D-Bernalillo, both asked if state funding could go directly the chapters of Alamo, Ramah and Tóhajiilee, rather than channeling through the Navajo Nation's capital in Window Rock, Ariz. Those chapters are known as the tribe's satellite chapters because they are each located outside the main reservation boundaries.
Sanchez said Alamo constituents told him capital outlay and other sources of funding are always stopped by "big Navajo."
"What's the issue there?" he said.
Allison said it is possible for the chapters to receive direct funding, but it would be at the discretion of the Navajo Nation government.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.