Water construction receives approval from tribe

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation has approved a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Health Service to construct a water and wastewater line in two Northern Agency chapters.

Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez signed the agreement last week on behalf of the tribe to complete the fifth phase of the Shiprock Sweetwater Transmission line in the Beclabito and Gadii’ahi chapters, according to a press release from the president’s office.

"The Shiprock Sweetwater Transmission line is a project that community members have been in need of for years, to provide water and wastewater facilities to this part of the Navajo Nation," Nez said in the statement.

Roger Slape is the construction director for the Division of Sanitation Facilities for the IHS Navajo Area office. Slape said today construction is scheduled to start July 1 for the 6.8-mile transmission line.

The overall system is being completed in phases as funding is appropriated, and when it is completed, it will run 50 miles between Shiprock and Sweetwater, Ariz., he said.

The completed line will supply water from the Shiprock community water system to the communities of Gadii’ahi and Beclabito, as well as to Teec Nos Pos, Sweetwater, Red Mesa and Mexican Water in Arizona, and Todahaidekani in Utah.

Slape said 2,263 homes have received approval to connect to the system after its completion.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority would be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the line when it is completed.

NTUA Deputy General Manager Rex Kontz said this week the project is part of a larger-scale system the tribe will build to bring such services to chapters. The agreement allows the allocation of money from the tribe to the IHS, Kontz said.

The larger plan involves developing water and wastewater systems across the reservation, and it received $180 million from the Síhasin Fund, which was approved by the Navajo Nation Council and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye this year. The Síhasin Fund was established after the tribe received a $554 million settlement from the federal government in 2014.

"I'm glad to see it happen because everybody involved seems to be stepping up to the plate and participating to some degree," Kontz said about the agreement approval.

He added that, for years, the tribe, IHS, NTUA and other entities have been developing a nationwide water plan.

"The exciting part is the council and the president understand that and are supporting it to the point of pushing large volumes of dollars toward creating that water network," Kontz said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.