Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project receives funding from federal infrastructure law

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is receiving $123 million from the recent federal infrastructure law to help complete the regional water system

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced this week that $1.7 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to fulfill settlements for several tribal water rights claims, in addition to funding for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project.

"Water is a sacred resource, and water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of tribal communities," Haaland said in a statement. "With this crucial funding from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Interior Department will be able to uphold our trust responsibilities and ensure that tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised."

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A construction worker shovels dirt from underneath a thrust block as part of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project on April 15, 2021 in Sheep Springs.

Components of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project remain under construction in northwest New Mexico. When completed, it will deliver San Juan River water to communities on the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache Nation as well as the city of Gallup.

"We are very appreciative of Congress authorizing this law and Secretary Haaland allocating key funding to the NGWSP that we will be able to put to use immediately," Bart Deming, construction engineer for the project, said on Feb. 24.

The $123 million will fully fund four existing construction projects and two new construction contracts that the bureau plans to award this fiscal year.

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During a visit to the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona on Feb. 22, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, fifth from left, announced $1.7 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to fulfill settlements for several tribal water rights claims.

According to the bureau, the current construction projects are pumping plants in Sheep Springs and in the area of Bahatl'ah and Coyote Canyon chapters, a pipeline from Yah-ta-hey to Tsé Bonito and the segment that will serve Church Rock, Iyanbito, Bááháálí, Chichiltah and Tsé Lichíí chapters.

The amount will also pay for the project's portion on a new electrical transmission line being built by Western Area Power Authority and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.

Democratic members of New Mexico's congressional delegation welcomed the funding provided to tribes and water settlements in the state, including the Aamodt Litigation Settlement.

That settlement will bring a regional water system to the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque.

The path of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply is visible from the top of a hill in Sheep Springs on April 15, 2021. The hilltop is where construction continues on a pumping plant for the water pipeline.

"The infrastructure law provides critical funding for major water infrastructure projects in New Mexico that will promote economic development and help fulfill the federal government's Indian water rights obligations," U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández said in a statement. "The critical funding for the Navajo-Gallup water project and the Aamodt Water Rights Settlement will bring clean and reliable water supply to communities across my district."

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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