GALLUP, N.M. -- Following through on President Barack Obama's direction to expedite high priority infrastructure projects for the nation, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other leaders to break ground on the historic Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which will deliver clean running water to 200,000 members of the Navajo Nation, many for the first time.
"We are turning dirt today on this project because President Obama has put such a high priority on honoring our commitments to Indian nations, to resolving long-standing water disputes, and to jump-starting major American infrastructure projects," said Secretary Salazar, who recognized Senator Jeff Bingaman and Senator Tom Udall for their critical role in advancing the project in the Congress. "It is simply unacceptable that four in ten members of the Navajo Nation must haul their water – often over long distances – from water stations. This project will be an engine for economic growth, create jobs, and supply the lifeblood for communities that have been without running water for far too long."
Hundreds of workers will now begin construction on 280 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants and a delivery system that will serve 43 Navajo chapters, the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and the city of Gallup. The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, which will provide a long-term sustainable water supply to a population expected to reach approximately 250,000 people by the year 2040, will start providing water to some communities within 2-3 years and is expected to be fully built-out by 2024.
The project, which was authorized by legislation President Obama signed on March 30, 2009, is the cornerstone of a hallmark Indian water rights settlement that resolved decades of uncertainty and dispute over water rights for the Navajo Nation and other water users in New Mexico. The project is also one of 14 high-priority infrastructure initiatives being expedited by the Obama administration as a result of a Presidential Memorandum issued in August 2011 in which the President directed federal agencies to improve permitting and environmental review processes for major infrastructure project in order to bring long-term economic benefits to communities across America, while improving accountability, transparency and efficiency.
"Over the past three years, we have reached unprecedented and historic Indian water rights settlements that provide secure water supplies for communities and certainty to all water users," said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor. "To see the Navajo-Gallup Project break ground is to be reminded that consensus-building and cooperation can bring about real and lasting change for communities that still do not have clean and reliable water supplies. Today is a proud day."
The Bureau of Reclamation has worked closely with other federal agencies and with the Navajo Nation and to find ways to move quickly on the necessary environmental permits and other construction prerequisites to move forward as expeditiously and efficiently as possible as a high-priority infrastructure project. The first construction contract for Reach 12A of the project was awarded in mid-April to McMillen LLC, a female-owned construction company.
This groundbreaking marked the beginning of construction on the first four miles of the main pipeline, which will be constructed as part of Reach 12A near Tohlakai Hill, outside of Gallup. The initial stage of construction on the project will create upwards of 450 jobs, with more than 650 jobs at peak construction, providing employment opportunities and economic benefits to neighboring American Indian communities.
In addition to project reaches to be completed by Reclamation under its own authorities, other portions will be constructed by the city of Gallup, the Navajo Nation, and the Indian Health Service in accordance with financial assistance agreements with Reclamation.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior