$2 Million In Funds Sought For Tohajiilee Navajo Chapter Water Project
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK — Last July, before Delegate Jerry Bodie’s group of 14 riders left Tohajiilee Chapter on the 12th Annual Navajo Nation Council Horse Ride, the Independent spoke with Ruth Secatero, supervisor at Tohajiilee Senior Center, about her views on what the chapter needed from Window Rock. The main thing, of course, was water.
“Right now they’re asking for capital money from the state. When it’s campaign time, when there’s new people running for office, they give you all this, ‘I’m going to run the water straight from Albuquerque to here along I-40.’ “I’ll believe it when I see it,” she said. “Water is water to us. What we have, we appreciate.
“In our growing-up days we didn’t complain about what type of water we drank. There’d be a dirt dam out there, there’d be tadpoles, whatever, and my uncle would run his wagon straight into the dam and we’d all be sitting in there. He’d have a barrel in there with a flour sack and he would pour it in and strain it. You’d see all these tadpoles jumping around. We didn’t care what it was.”
She still remembers the clay taste the water had to it, and now when it rains, “that dirt smell, oh, I just take a deep, deep breath,” she said.
Nearly eight months later, Tohajiilee Chapter is still waiting on funding to complete a cost share agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to draft environmental compliance and engineering design documents for the water project.
The chapter has been working with the Albuquerque-Bernalillo Water Resources Board and has obtained an agreement to have a water line extended from the city of Albuquerque to Tohajiilee. The Army Corps has committed $6.4 million and the state of New Mexico has appropriated $250,000 toward the first stage of the project.
All that’s needed to get moving is a supplemental appropriation of $2 million from the Navajo Nation for the cost share agreement.
Tohajiilee Delegate Lawrence Platero received unanimous approval Monday from the Intergovernmental Relations Committee for a supplemental appropriation of $2 million from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance so the agreement could advance.
Unfortunately, the UUFB was drained dry by Council before the end of last September, after which the Minimum Fund Balance was nearly tapped out as well. The Minimum Fund will have to be built back up to $16 million from its remaining balance of $350,000 before any money begins to trickle into the UUFB for supplemental appropriations.
Meanwhile, Tohajiilee residents have to depend on poor quality water to meet an increasing demand.
“We have a water project in our community that serves about 275 families whether they do their monthly payment or not,” Platero said. “We provide water service to our families out there, we provide water service to the community school, the clinic, the chapter and several other businesses that are out there that provide services such as behavioral health, diabetes and Head Start.”
He said they are seeking a better water system than the one they are using. “Our water system currently has a lot of minerals in it, and the water at times does not taste good. At times you can’t see through the glass — you pour a glass of water and it’s so thick with different minerals and chemicals.
“Although the Indian Health Service has tested the water and said it’s safe for drinking, a lot of people still haul their water from Albuquerque,” Platero said.
The chapter is seeking funds through New Mexico capital outlay and currently has requests pending before the state, but even the state is cutting back on funding capital projects due to its budget shortfall. “I would appreciate any appropriations that the Nation can come up with so that we can get better water and have some matching funds for this project,” Platero added..
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