To the editor:
As residents of the Navajo Nation know, the winter of 2007/2008 was one of the wettest and most destructive in recent memory. Heavy snowfall was followed by heavy rainfall that turned roads into washes, washes into streams, and streams into rivers. Dozens of roads along the southwestern portion of the Nation were simply washed away, leaving hundreds, if not thousands of residents stranded and helpless.
While the poor condition of these roads is nothing new, the magnitude of the destruction was shocking. More than just an inconvenience, the dangerous condition of our roads is a major threat to the health and safety of our residents.
It's for this reason that my priority as a County Supervisor has been to do everything in my power to use the combined resources of the county, state, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Navajo Department of Transportation (NDOT) to address the horrendous and dangerous condition of our roads.
In the last year, we have seen great success in our efforts to coordinate resources more effectively. For example:
Navajo County convened a 'Reservation Roads' transportation summit involving BIA, NDOT, the Arizona Department of Transportation, Apache County, the Federal Highways Administration, and other agencies in an effort to enhance inter-agency efforts to improve reservation roads.
Navajo County and NDOT are planning to build two road yards within 18 months in the Pinon and Dilkon areas. These road yards are currently under design and will be funded with 50% percent contributions from each organization. A third yard is scheduled to be constructed within a few years, provided that the local chapter makes land available in Kayenta. Navajo County will soon contract with an architect to design these yards. The engineer will work with both NDOT and the counties.
Navajo County has entered into a contract with the Navajo Department of Transportation to improve 32 miles of school bus routes with ABC gravel. The contract amount is over $2.5 million and will be done using resources in partnership between Navajo County and the Navajo Nation.
Navajo County is working to partner with Apache County, and Peabody Mine to crush 50,000 tons of red-dog rock material this fall for placement on public roads.
Navajo County has assisted the BIA in obtaining equipment, manpower, and material necessary to more actively and effectively maintain their roads
Navajo County is partnering with the Kayenta School District, Kayenta Community, NDOT, and the Arizona Department of Transportation on providing a much needed traffic signal at the Kayenta High School.
Navajo County, together with the BIA and NDOT, is preparing to update the existing emergency response plan, which the BIA developed years ago. This plan will be updated and recognized by all agencies to improve response times in severe weather. The plan will also help all agencies be better prepared for emergencies, such as the ones we saw this last winter.
The County's willingness to partner with the Nation is also reflected by my efforts to extend greater assistance to local chapters to address a variety of needs. Among other things, the County provides generous financial contributions to all senior centers for their use and purchases vans for these centers and veterans programs. The County has also partnered 50/50 with local chapters and schools to purchase two-way radios for their use, particularly during emergencies.
Through these and other partnerships, Navajo County has expended over $5.3 million on the Navajo, Hopi, and White Mountain Apache reservations since January of 2006, signaling the County's commitment to its reservation residents.
I am confident that these partnerships will provide the residents of northern Navajo County with a more reliable transportation system and higher standard of living than exists today.
Supervisor Percy Deal
Board of Supervisors