Construction contract awarded for next section of Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project

Work includes installing 17 miles of pipeline and building storage tank

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $76.1 million contract to a Minnesota-based company to build a section of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

S.J. Louis Construction Inc. of Rockville, Minnesota,. will install segments of pipeline that will run from Yah-ta-hey to Window Rock, Arizona.

This section of the project is known as the Navajo Code Talkers Sublateral and is named after the nearby N.M. Highway 264, which is designated as the Navajo Code Talkers Highway.

S.J. Louis Construction is a general contractor that specializes in underground utility construction, the company website states.

The bureau's news release states that work includes installing approximately 17 miles of pipeline and a ground-level storage tank. Construction will start in January 2022 and last about two years.

"This is a significant milestone for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project and illustrates the Department of the Interior's commitment to tribal communities," Tanya Trujillo, the U.S. Interior Department assistant secretary for water and science, said in the release. "The department is excited to leverage the new resources in the bipartisan infrastructure law to make similar investments to ensure that clean, safe drinking water is a right in tribal communities."

A type of concrete mix called controlled low-strength material is used on April 15, 2021, to stabilize a pipe as construction proceeds on a section of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project in Newcomb.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $1.2 trillion to repair and enhance the country's aging infrastructure and other projects that improve communities such water systems and broadband accessibility.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden in November.

It included $2.5 billion to fully fund existing settlements of Indian water rights claims, according to the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President.

Dirt is removed by an excavator as construction takes place on April 15, 2021, on the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project in Newcomb.

Funding for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project comes from the Indian Water Rights Settlement Fund.

Construction of the water supply project was authorized in the settlement agreement between the Navajo Nation and the state of New Mexico for the use of waters in the San Juan River Basin in the northwest part of the state.

When the water supply project is completed, it will consist of approximately 300 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants, 19 pumping plants and several water storage tanks to serve 43 chapters on the Navajo Nation, the southwest area of the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the city of Gallup.

Construction on a section of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project continues on April 15, 2021, as a welder connects piping in Newcomb.

"Reclamation is pleased to begin construction on the Navajo Code Talkers Sublateral," Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said in the release. "This will mark another step towards meeting the United States' obligation to the Navajo Nation under the nation's water rights settlement agreement on the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico, where over a third of households still haul drinking water to their homes."

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.

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