Navajo-Gallup pipeline groundbreaking set
By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times
WINDOW ROCK, May 31, 2012
Tribal officials said that the groundbreaking ceremonies are by invitation only but will include a wide range of tribal, federal and state officials.
The groundbreaking was announced after the Interior Department said that a $10.75 million construction contract has been let for the construction of the first phase of that project this summer.
The contract went to McMillen, LLC of Boise, Idaho, which has been given the task of placing approximately four miles of 42-inch diameter pipeline starting about eight miles north of Gallup.
This pertains only to the main corridor project, which is projected to be completed in 2021.
Work began more than three years ago on another part of the project - the Cutter Lateral, which will bring water to chapters in the Eastern Navajo Agency.
Navajo tribal water management officials said that project is going smoothly and the first chapters should start receiving water later this year when water from Nageezi and Huerfano is expected to begin being transported to Whitehorse Lake and Pueblo Pintado.
And, if construction on the main route goes on schedule, some Navajo communities along the main route may start receiving water in as little as two or three years, according to Interior officials.
"This construction project award marks a major milestone for this high-priority infrastructure project as we work to implement the historic water rights settlement that will deliver clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
The pipeline has been in the works for more than 60 years but it was only in the past seven years that progress was made on getting it actually approved and funded.
Both the Navajo Nation and the city of Gallup have been clamoring for new sources of water, saying that the current supply won't be enough to handle the area's growing need for water because of population increases.
When it is completed at a cost of anywhere between $800 million and $1 billion, the project will include approximately 280 miles of pipeline, several pumping plants and two water treatment plants.
Another major benefit of the pipeline construction will be in the creation of jobs, which should start being filled in the next few weeks.
Interior officials estimate that between 400 and 450 jobs will be created within the first year and that will increase to 600 to 650 jobs when the construction reaches its peak in the next few years.
At the same time that construction is beginning, negotiations are getting underway to determine who will deal with things like operation, maintenance and replacement of the pipeline.
The first negotiation session between the Bureau of Reclamation, the city of Farmington, the state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation was held on Wednesday at the Bureau of Reclamation's Farmington office.
People who want to keep in touch with what was decided can do so by going online to the project's website (www.usbr/gov/uc/wcao/index/html).
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