Hopi Tribe has plans for 150 houses and businesses 15 miles north of Shungopavi
KYKOTSMOVI — Environmental and archeological tests will determine in the next three months whether the planned community of Tawaovi on the Hopi Reservation can become a reality.
The Hopi Tribe has plans for about 150 houses and businesses ranging from convenience stores to light industrial.
The area, about 15 miles north of the Hopi Cultural Center at Shungopavi, is currently being tested for water and soil as well as environmental assessments.
During Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s recent visit to the Hopi Reservation, Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. asked the governor for help on developing the Tawaovi community. The chairman didn’t ask for any specifics. Carroll Onsae, tribal operations manager, said the science will determine whether the planned community goes forward. He said the testing should be completed by the end of the first quarter of the year. He said if all the tests are positive that they can go forward with the construction of the infrastructure and the buildings.
Onsae noted that if the tests come back negative that science could kill the entire project. But that is not his expectation.
“Our indications so far are positive, but we need hard data. That will be the turning point on the project,” he said. “All indications are that this will become a reality unless something major keeps this from happening.”
Thompson and Pollari Studio Inc. of Scottsdale are performing the current tests.
Onsae said Thompson and Pollari will also identify funding sources for this project for the Hopi Tribe.
“If funding is available, we can start construction as early as April or May,” he said.
Onsae said the tribe may seek funding from the state, but they also would be interested in obtaining their technical assistance for social and economic development.
Onsae said the housing and business development are important for the Hopi Reservation. He said land availability is a problem on Hopi. He said the new homes could be available to the growing Hopi population, but is also needed for skilled and talented workers who get jobs on the Hopi Reservation but can’t find housing.
“This will be for more than just Hopi,” he said.
Onsae added that businesses in Tawaovi would help the Hopi economy. He said when BIA Road 4 is expanded that it would help make businesses at Tawaovi more practical. BIA Rd 4 goes from the Hopi Reservation to Monument Valley, but much of it remains unpaved. The Hopi Tribe has received $1 million for the planning to connect the route.
“This (planned community) will have to be in phases. The housing will come first. Then the others will come. We don’t want to force anything. We want it to evolve naturally. We want a true economy,” he said.
Onsae credits Hopi Chairman Taylor with pushing this project forward.
“It’s sprung forward in the past year. The team working on the project made serious gains,” he said. “The chairman has really been carrying the ball.”
Onsae said eight members are on the team trying to make this work.
The planned community could also include some government buildings as the current tribal buildings in Kykotsmovi are overcrowded.
“We’re waiting to see what the water will handle. That will determine how many buildings we can put up,” he said.
If there’s enough water, the planned community could include a cultural center, a museum and an archival center for the tribe’s Cultural Preservation Office.
The Tawaovi community has been planned for more than 20 years. Some thought it would be a good location because it would place Hopi workers closer to the Black Mesa Mine.
Onsae said Peabody Coal Co. has a contractual obligation to help up there.
“If this is feasible then we can say we need so much money in phases. I’m sure Peabody would become a big player at that point,” he said.
The costs aren’t known at this point because until the tests come back they don’t know how much they can build.
Onsae said if the science kills this project that the Hopi Tribe would have to seek another location for a planned community.
“But I don’t know where that would be” he said.
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)