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Navajo Nation Puts Block Grants Toward Seven Infrastructure Projects

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If Santa were an Indian… he wouldn't want milk and cookies. Read on for more Indian jokes.

Waterline projects are quite possibly, the most needed projects for chapters when it comes to infrastructure development. These multi-million dollar projects take years to complete and requires funding from Indian Health Services. (Photo by Rick Abasta)

The final selections have been made for the fiscal year 2011 Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG). The Navajo Nation was approved for $4.5 million, which will fund seven infrastructure projects.

The Navajo Nation Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) was awarded $4,506,720 by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to construct six power line projects and one waterline project.

Navajo Nation Division of Community Development Director (NNDCD) Arbin Mitchell said the seven projects funded are all basic infrastructure needs most requested from Navajo chapters.

“We still have students out there doing their homework using the dim light from a lantern,” Mitchell said in a press release. “These projects will go a long way toward improving their quality of life.”

HUD’s Southwest Office of Native American Programs (SWONAP) contacted the Navajo Nation for the funding approval on September 7, 2011, which is also the effective date of funding.

The timeline for the funding began earlier this year, from January 10-14, when CDBG held public hearings in all five agencies of the Navajo Nation for proposals.

On March 4, the CDBG proposal due date netted 32 funding requests amounting to $19.3 million. CDBG submitted eight projects to HUD totaling $5.5 million but only seven were approved for funding.

The Navajo Nation received the award letter from HUD for $4.5 million on September 7. CDBG distributed award letters to Navajo chapters on October 6.

The projects funded are for the communities of Kayenta, White Rock, Cornfields, Mexican Water, Oljato, Red Mesa and Lake Valley. The seven projects selected for funding amount to $3,780,578. Administrative costs totaled $726,142.

CDBG is working cooperatively with other funding sources to complete the infrastructure projects.

Kayenta’s power line project will stretch 12.63 miles and serve 42 homes. The chapter received $1,068,402 from CDBG and matching funds from the chapter at $99,180 and $49,500 from Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), for a total project cost of $1,217,082.

The Navajo Nation’s smallest chapter is ecstatic with the FY 2011 funding approval.

White Rock Chapter’s phase-three power line project spans 4.48 miles and will serve eight households. The chapter received $198,276 from CDBG and $12,000 from NTUA, for a total project cost of $210,276.

White Rock Chapter President Lucinda Henry said the residents are very excited with the infrastructure development, especially after years of inactivity.

“It’s about time White Rock is getting some stuff done. We weren’t able to get stuff funded before, but now, the time has come,” Henry said in a press release.

When the power line is completed, she said all of the residents in White Rock would finally have electricity. The waterline project with neighboring Lake Valley Chapter will also provide water for 22 families living in the Owl Springs area of White Rock Chapter.

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Another Navajo chapter waited decades for funding approval.

Cornfield Chapter will proceed with phase-one of their power line project, which will extend 24.64 miles and bring electricity to 28 homes. CDBG awarded the chapter $772,228. The chapter contributed $149,345 and NTUA funded $42,000 for a total project cost of $963,573.

Elizabeth Johnson, chapter manager for Cornfields, said the proposed power line has been in the planning stage for over 20 years, for the Navajo Station area of the chapter.

Why did the pig cross the road?

The Church Rock power line project will finally reach Navajo families living in the Sundance-Rehoboth area. These families lived without access although the city lights of Gallup were visible in the distance. (Photo by Rick Abasta)

Approximately 50 families live in Navajo Station, she said, and phase one of the power line extension will light up 28 homes.

“We were very happy to get this (funding),” Johnson said in a statement. “This was a much needed project for our people. They’ve been wanting this for a long time.”

Mexican Water Chapter’s phase-two power line extension will cover 2.63 miles and provide electricity service to eight homes. CDBG awarded the chapter $21,945. The chapter contributed $10,500 for a total project cost of $247,847.

At Red Mesa Chapter, the proposed scattered site power line project stretches 3.5 miles and will provide electricity to 14 homes. CDBG awarded Red Mesa $262,830. The chapter funded $20,000. NTUA contributed $16,800 and $20,000 was contributed by the Navajo Revitalization Fund (NRF), for a total project cost of $319,630.

One Utah chapter has also supplemented CDBG funding with trust funds to complete their projects.

Oljato’s phase-five power line extension will cover 5.14 miles and service 22 homes. CDBG awarded the chapter $363,440. NTUA contributed $27,000 and NRF contributed $125,000 for a project total of $515,440.

Albert Page Tinhorn, community services coordinator for Oljato Chapter, characterized the clients of the proposed power line as, “extremely happy.”

Phase five of the Douglas Mesa project will serve 27 clients, he said.

“This chapter is very unique in that it has access to the Utah Navajo Trust Fund and the Navajo Revitalization Fund. The projects done in this community can be funded by these organizations,” Tinhorn said in the release.

The Lake Valley waterline project will cover 18.67 miles and provide water services for 55 homes in the Owl Springs area. CDBG awarded the chapter $900,000. Combined with Indian Health Service’s $1,366,000 the project total amount is $2,266,000.

Chavez John, program manager for the Community Housing and Infrastructure Department, said the projects funded are based on proper planning and collaboration with other stakeholders like IHS, NTUA, chapters, Jemez Electric Company and Rocky Mountain Electric.

“With the same cooperative effort, these projects will be a reality on a timely basis. I appreciate all that were involved in the preparation of the ICDBG application in the early spring of 2011.

CDBG continues to develop viable communities, including decent housing, suitable living environments and expanding economic opportunities principally for persons of low and moderate income.