Communities around Gallup, New Mexico learned April 1, that safe drinking water is on schedule to be available in the near future for tribal and rural areas.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $19.6 million construction contract to build the Tohlakai Pumping Plant. The plant will be the first pumping plant for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, eight miles north of Gallup. Moltz Constructors, Inc., a small business enterprise located in Cody, Wyoming received the projects contract.
“The Navajo-Gallup project will deliver clean, safe drinking water to tribal and rural communities, many of which have been hauling water over long distances for far too long,” Jewell said in a press release. “This contract is another important step in honoring U.S. commitments to Indian nations while providing lasting benefits for local economies and public health.”
This project is the cornerstone of the historic Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement Agreement in the San Juan River Basin in New Mexico that was signed by the Department of the Interior, the Navajo Nation, and the State of New Mexico in December 2010.
“Access to drinkable water is a basic necessity for public health and economic development, and it’s intolerable that many Navajos in New Mexico still must travel miles and miles to bring back water for their families to drink, bathe and cook with every day,” Sen. Tom Udall said in a press release.
The project not only benefits the Navajo Nation, but includes the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the city of Gallup, and – in conjunction with Reclamation – the state of New Mexico, Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service the release states.
“Not only will this help provide much needed long-term water security and improve public health for the Navajo Nation, the city of Gallup, and the Jicarilla Apache Nation, but will also promote economic development across the region. I will continue to work to uphold our commitments to our Native communities and ensure they have the resources they need to thrive,” Sen. Martin Heinrich said after the announcement.
“The overall project is a priority for the Navajo Nation which will provide the necessary water supply for future economic growth for the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. The current pumping plant will help many Navajo families east of Gallup, New Mexico get near-term groundwater for domestic use before the San Juan River water comes,” said Ben Shelly, President of the Navajo Nation.
The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project has been included in President Barack Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget requests for $80 million, and “when completed, will have the capacity to deliver clean running water to a potential future population of approximately 250,000,” the release states.
The pumping plant will be located in McKinley County, is expected to take approximately 26 months to complete and looks to employee approximately 140 direct and indirect jobs over that time.
During the peak of construction numerous project sites will be up and running that would involve more than 600 jobs.
“This priority project will bring clean drinking water to thousands of Navajo citizens and much needed jobs to the Navajo Nation,” Shelly said in a Navajo Nation press release following the announcement.
The project began in June 2012 and is on schedule for completion in 2024.
Initial capacity will be two cubic-feet-per-second, that will be used in the short term to provide groundwater from Navajo Nation wells until the projects completion – including the pipeline from the San Juan River. Additional pumps will be added according to the demand for water, eventually reaching a total capacity of approximately 36.5 cfs of treated surface water from the San Juan River to Navajo communities and the cities of Gallup and Window Rock, Arizona.
The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is one of 14 high-priority infrastructure projects identified in October of 2011 by the Obama Administration to be expedited through the permitting and environmental review process according to the release.
The collaboration between the Navajo Nation and the DOI on this project has been a prime example of a working government-to-government relationship according to the Navajo release. “The Shelly-Jim and Obama administrations utilized a streamlined permitting and environmental review process for the project.”
“I express my support and thanks to the Obama administration to continuing to fund this high priority project for the health and economic benefit of the Navajo people,” Shelly said.
Following the announcement Rep. Ben Ray Luján said, “The Navajo-Gallup project is essential to ensure that the Navajo Nation and its local community chapters, the city of Gallup, and the Jicarilla Apache Nation have the water resources needed to provide for their people and encourage economic growth that will create new opportunities in these communities. This latest announcement represents another important step forward in the construction of this vital project.”