Officials: DOE Corridors May Need Pathways Through Navajo Lands
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK - The U.S. Department of Energy is not designating any corridors on the Navajo Nation as part of its energy transport corridor, because it does not have the authority to dictate what Indian nations do on sovereign tribal lands.
But that does not mean that the corridors will not connect with Navajo lands or that the locations of the corridors will not in some way dictate a pathway through the reservation. In the case of Eastern Navajo, the corridor will impact four chapters in the checkerboard area, according to land officials.
"We have some corridors that abut the Nation, and we also know that there are other lands off the reservation that you care about, that you have historical connections to. There could be cultural impacts,” Laverne Kyriss, DOE federal energy corridors project manager, told a handful of concerned tribal officials and grassroots Navajos during a meeting Wednesday in Window Rock.
While the room was packed with federal officials, the general Navajo public was noticeably absent, perhaps because many of them were at work during the 2-5 p.m. hearing.
Or, as pointed out by Anna Frazier of Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, Elouise Brown of Dooda Desert Rock, and Judy Willetto of the Division of Natural Resources, DOE did “a poor job in advertising the meeting,” so many members of the public were unaware that it was being held or that DOE had changed the location after it was advertised.
The meeting was set for 2-5 p.m. because officials at the Bureau of Land Management offices in Farmington and Albuquerque said that time worked best, Kyriss said, though it was unclear whether that meant best for federal officials or best for the Navajo people.
The federal corridors touch the Nation’ borders in three separate areas as well as edge along NAPI and impact trust and fee lands, but the DOE map showed no detail inside the Nation’s boundaries because, as Kyriss said, designation of corridors on tribal lands is “up to each individual tribe.”
After several complaints, Ihor Hlohowskyj of Argonne National Laboratory projected a map that showed existing pipelines and transmission lines on Navajo and then overlaid those lines with the proposed corridor. Not surprisingly, they lined up.
Arvin Trujillo, executive director for the Division of Natural Resources, speaking on behalf of the Navajo Nation, said that in reviewing the proposed locations of the energy corridors on federal lands outside the boundary of the Navajo Nation, “it is apparent that in order to connect the initial placement of these corridors, pathways through the Navajo Nation will be needed.
"The Navajo Nation currently has existing oil and gas pipelines and electrical transmission lines crossing the reservation. “Through negotiations and following the Nation’s rights of way process, additional requests for new pipelines and transmission lines could be accommodated, but only after following the prescribed processes in place with the Nation.
"The designation of the corridors on federal lands that border the exterior boundaries of the Nation places an undue burden on the Nation to designate similar corridors to accommodate federally designated corridors,” Trujillo said.
"The Nation wants to make it clear that in order to connect the lines developed through this process, the federal government and future developers must work with the Nation,” he said.
The proposed corridor, on average, would be about 3,500 feet wide - a little less than three-quarters of a mile. Trujillo told the feds not to expect Navajo to accommodate a corridor that cuts right across the Nation.
"Establishing a corridor that would average “ and again, “average” 3,500 feet, would be very difficult to put in place, and the Nation would not consider such an effort as being in the best interest of the Nation,” he said.
Disturbing lands outside the Nation that are of cultural or traditional significance also would not be considered in the best interest of Navajo.
Diné CARE’s Frazier reminded the feds, “We all know the history of relocation, and relocatees that have been impacted have been traumatized. To come in and remove them, all because somebody else somewhere in the big cities is going to be using the energy, I don’t
think that’s right to do that. We need to be told the truth about these kinds of things.”
She and Dooda’s Brown both asked that the hearing be extended and advertised extensively so that the Navajo people would have a better opportunity to participate. In checking at her chapter house in Dilkon Wednesday morning, Frazier said those present were unaware of the meeting, though DOE said it sent notices of the meeting and location change to all chapters, as well as copies of the Draft EIS.
Elroy Drake, special project person for the Division of Natural Resources? Narbonna Growth Fund, said the proposal appeared to be “an opportunity for the Navajo Nation to develop renewable energy and have a way to transmit this power to where people are willing to pay for it, primarily California and Phoenix.
"This kind of fits in with what we?d like to do. We?re looking at wind farms and solar farms and developing our own natural gas resources and having a way to transport it out of here. If not, utilize it on the reservation,” he said.
Jimson Joe, executive director of Navajo Department of Emergency Management, said that in looking up documents on the corridor Web site, “There is an indication that you have an emergency plan. ... I’d like to see if I could get a chance to review it. I couldn’t download it because it was a 40-megabyte document.
"You also have a community information document on there, and I need to see if we can get an opportunity to see those reports and information,” to ensure the safety of the Navajo people.”The project ?is an economic venture,” he said, and one he does not believe benefits the Navajo people.
Larry Rogers, Eastern Navajo Land Commission executive director, and Delegate Charles Damon, vice chairman, raised questions regarding the lines on the map indicating the path of the corridor.
Rogers said the broken black line represents the corridor’s placement on BLM lands. The spaces in between indicate land which could be allotted or privately owned. “Albuquerque BLM did us a map and it shows the full corridor. There are four chapters affected in Eastern,” he said.
Damon told the feds there is a pending land exchange in Eastern Agency that would have an impact on the proposed corridor. He requested the commission and the feds meet to discuss the matter.
The deadline for comments on the Draft PEIS are due by Feb. 14 and may be submitted on the Web at:
via fax to: (866) 524-5904,
or by mail to:
Westwide Corridor DEIS,
Argonne National Laboratory,
9700 S. Cass Ave., Bldg. 900, Mail Stop 4,
Argonne, IL 60439.
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