Navajo Nation gets $4.4 million from FAA's discretionary grant program for project

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FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is slated to receive a $4.4 million grant to rehabilitate the runway at the Shiprock Airstrip.

The funding is from the Federal Aviation Administration's discretionary grant program, and it was announced in a joint press release from U.S. senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, all of New Mexico.

Arlando Teller, deputy division director for the Navajo Division of Transportation, said the money will be used next year to renovate the runway from the subbase to the surface.

The project also includes striping the end of the 4,840-foot runway and adding a taxiway turnaround, he said.

"The highest priority for the FAA and Navajo DOT is to insure the runway is in operable condition," Teller said.

He said the division was notified on Sept. 11 about the grant, and it was under review by tribal officials as of Friday.

While the Shiprock Airstrip and the Crownpoint Airport each receive $150,000 in entitlement funds annually from the FAA's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, this is the first time the tribe has received a discretionary grant, which is usually awarded to larger airports, he said.

"If we can do it here in Shiprock, we can do it in Crownpoint. We can advocate for our other airports to get this discretionary funds from the FAA," Teller said.

Udall, Heinrich and Luján expressed their approval of the grant in the Sept. 12 press release.

"Federal investments to improve infrastructure at our airports — particularly throughout Indian Country — help drive commerce, create jobs and connect rural communities across the state," Heinrich said.

"This grant provides $4.4 million from the FAA to allow the Shiprock Airstrip to improve infrastructure and increase their operations, which, in turn, will provide greater opportunities for existing businesses and holds the key to new economic activity as well," Luján said.

Teller said medical flights make up the majority of the activity at the airstrip, followed by private aircraft.

By rehabilitating the runway, it increases economic opportunities for the surrounding communities, he said.

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

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