Bureau of Reclamation marks completion of Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project section

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

DZILTH-NA-O-DITH-HLE — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recognized the completion of one of the pipelines in the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

Officials from the bureau, along with the Navajo Nation and other agencies, gathered at the Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant to tour the facility, which was constructed in two phases to receive San Juan River water for treatment then delivery by pipeline to chapters on the Navajo Nation and the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

The treatment plant is a component of the Cutter Lateral, one of two pipelines under the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. The second pipeline – the San Juan Lateral – is under construction alongside U.S. Highway 491 in Naschitti, Sheep Springs, Newcomb and Burnham.

At right, Jim Magnuson, Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project Operations Manager for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, talks on Oct. 19 about the chemical process for water treatment at the Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant near Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle.

The treatment plant, located on an area administered by the Bureau of Land Management near Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle, will receive river water from the Navajo Reservoir via the Cutter Reservoir via pumping plants.

The facility will remove particles, sediments, organic matter and microbial contaminants from the water before undergoing additional processes to meet safe drinking water standards defined by the New Mexico Environment Department.

It was designed to treat a peak flow of 3.5 million gallons per day and has the capability to be expanded to treat 5.4 million gallons per day in the future.

The bureau will test and monitor the treatment plant and pipeline for the next six months while the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority introduces water from the plant into the six distribution systems.

Ted Michaelidis, design-build manager with Jacobs Engineering Group, talks about a component of the Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant, located near Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle, during a tour on Oct. 19.

After the pre-commissioning, the bureau will hand off operations, maintenance and replacement responsibilities to NTUA.

Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman inspected the water treatment plant on Oct. 19 and expressed satisfaction that this portion of the overall project was completed on schedule.

"We couldn't be more proud that construction is finished on the Cutter Lateral and that water should be flowing very soon. … To know that there can be a clean, reliable water supply is so important for health. It's so important for safety. It's overwhelming important for building a strong economy on the Navajo Nation," Burman said.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi joined Burman on the tour.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation provided tours of the Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant to officials from the agency and the Navajo Nation on Oct. 19 near Dzilth-Na-O-Dith-Hle.

For Nez, the pipeline's completion will help with economic development in chapters along U.S. Highway 550.

"Now it's upon us to get homes tied into the major trunk line," Nez said.

He added the Cutter Lateral can serve as a model for the Western Navajo Pipeline, a proposed water infrastructure system to send water from Lake Powell to chapters in the western part of the reservation.

Although Gallup will not be served by the Cutter Lateral, Bonaguidi attended the event to see what is in store for the San Juan Lateral.

"This is so encouraging to me," he said. "What this does is it ensures Gallup … that we have a continuity and there's a future for our kids."

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription to The Daily Times.