Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed a tribal agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) on Thursday opening the door for FEMA to help reimburse the Navajo Nation with costs related to Operation Winter Freeze.
"Today, the Navajo Nation is taking a new step into establishing our sovereignty as we are going to sign an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Administration," Shelly said before he signed the agreement.
The Navajo Nation is the second Native American nation to sign an agreement since amendments in the Stafford Act allowed tribes to directly ask the President of the United States to declare a disaster.
FEMA Region 9 Administrator Nancy Ward signed the agreement for FEMA. The agreement specifies FEMA and the Navajo Nation will share costs from the emergency that left as many as 18,000 people without running water due to frozen pipes. FEMA will share 75 percent of the costs, according to the agreement.
The Navajo Nation is eligible for reimbursement money for costs related to restoring water to homes and costs for structural repairs to prevent future waterline freezing. The total costs have yet to be determined, but Navajo Department of Emergency Management initially estimated that the total cost of repairs stemming from Operation Winter Freeze is more than $7 million.
On March 5, President Barack Obama declared that a major disaster existed on Navajo Nation lands, the agreement states.
"The Navajo Nation is taking a new step on the path of recognized sovereignty," Shelly said, "We hope today's signing will lead to more direct recognition and communication with other agencies and departments within the federal government."
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