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Capital Briefs | ‘Uncontrolled spread’ of virus at 65 chapters

WINDOW ROCK

Based on the number of COVID-19 cases from Nov. 12 to Nov. 25, on Monday the Navajo Department of Health issued a health advisory notice to 65 chapters warning of the uncontrolled spread of the virus.

These chapters are:

Baca/Prewitt, Becenti, Bird Springs, Black Mesa, Bodaway/Gap, Casamero Lake, Chichiltah, Chilchinbeto, Chinle, Church Rock, Coppermine, Coyote Canyon, Crownpoint; and
Dennehotso Gadiiahi, Ganado, Hogback, Indian Wells, Inscription House, Iyanbito, Kaibeto, Kayenta, Lechee, Leupp, Low Mountain, Lupton, Mexican Springs, Mexican Water, Nageezi, Nahodishgish; and

Naschitti, Navajo Mountain, Nenahnezad, Newcomb, Oak Springs, Pinedale, Pinon, Ramah, Red Mesa, Red Valley, Rock Point, Rock Springs, Sanostee, Sheepsprings, Shiprock, Shonto, St. Michaels; and

Standing Rock, Sweetwater, Tachee/Blue Gap, Teecnospos, Thoreau, To’hajiilee, Tohatchi, Tonalea, Torreon, Tsaile/Wheatfields, Tsayatoh, Tselani/Cottonwood, Tuba City, Twin Lakes; and
Upper Fruitland, Whippoorwill, White Cone and White Horse Lake.

Bill earmarks $68M for NM water projects

WINDOW ROCK – A bill to allocate $68 million from the Sihasin Fund would complete work on 12 water connection projects in the Eastern and Northern agencies, the speaker’s office reports.

“This $68 million investment would provide over 14,600 people with access to safe, clean potable water,” said Speaker Seth Damon.

The Naabik’íyáti’ Committee OK’d the allocation 21-0, which would go to the Department of Water Resources. Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty sponsored the bill.

Chapters that will receive these water projects include Sanostee, Newcomb, Two Grey Hills, Sheep Springs, Tohatchi, Mexican Springs, Standing Rock, Naschitti, Rock Springs/Tsayatoh, and Tó’hajiilee.

“We are at the final stages of bringing safe drinking water to our Navajo families who most need it,” Crotty said. “These connection projects will create additional jobs and provide miles of new water lines directly to the homes of elders, veterans, and our most vulnerable families.”

The 2018 Consumer Confidence Report, prepared by Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, stated that high arsenic concentration levels exist in the water supply of chapters and groundwater production is declining due to aquifer depletion or well fatigue.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, prolonged exposure to elevated arsenic concentrations can lead to skin lesions, blood disorders, and an increased risk of cancer. It has also been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“Most of the homes and businesses have a depleting groundwater supply that cannot meet the future needs of more than 43 Navajo chapters,” said Delegate Mark Freeland. “Water production is declining as many of our wells are at risk of being shut down and requiring maintenance, turning off running water for families in our communities.

Sanostee, Two Grey Hills, and Newcomb have high arsenic levels in their water supply, which violates the Safe Drinking Water Act and Sheep Springs, Naschitti, Tohatchi and Standing Rock rely solely on groundwater wells, which are producing less water due to aquifer exhaustion or depletion.

Budget & Finance Committee Chairman Jamie Henio said, “The Tóhajiilee Chapter is suffering from an acute water crisis where five of six wells have failed or been abandoned due to poor water quality and maintenance issues.”

Since 2016, the Tóhajiilee well has been shut off four times due to pump failures.

The bill now goes to President Jonathan Nez for his OK or veto.

Congresswoman, Nez discuss Navajo-Gallup pipeline

GALLUP – On Nov. 23, Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-N.M., visited the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project with President Jonathan Nez, Gallup Mayor Louie Bonaguidi and other city leaders.

The project will deliver water from the San Juan River to the eastern section of the Navajo Nation, the southwestern portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and to the city of Gallup.
The project, when completed, includes 280 miles of pipeline, several pumping plants, and two water treatment plants.

Leger Fernández helped secure $67 million for the project in this year’s House passed appropriations bill, which awaits Senate action.

“This funding will get us one step closer toward completing this project,” she said.

Nez said, “Water is life and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is essential to delivering clean water to thousands of our Navajo people.”

First bill for ARPA spending totals $1.1B

WINDOW ROCK – A bill (No. 0257-21) that seeks the OK of the Navajo Nation Council to allocate more than $1.1 billion of fiscal recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, will be the first of several that will be considered to spend the more than $2 billion that the Navajo Nation received to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This first bill would allocate $301 million for water and wastewater projects; $208 million for broadband infrastructure; $200 million for electricity for homes; $100 million for housing; $150 million for bathroom additions; and $207 million for hardship assistance payments to enrolled tribal citizens.

In July, Council approved a resolution that established the framework for the spending. The Nez-Lizer administration continues to work with the legislative branch to develop more bills to spend the money. Priorities include educational initiatives, wellness centers, detox centers, senior centers and transitional housing, mental health services, social services, chapter projects, economic development, tourism, and the enterprises.

In a Sunday news release, President Jonathan Nez said, “Never before has the Navajo Nation received this level of funding in such a short timeframe. If passed by the Council, this legislation will provide immediate financial relief for children and adults.”

Money managers meet at Twin Arrows

LEUPP, Ariz. – On Monday, the Navajo Nation Investment Committee held its annual meeting and received reports from RVK, the Nation’s investment consultant.

The reports included the Nation’s assets and investment portfolio performances, according to the president’s office, but no details were included in the news release.

The group, meeting at Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, included Budget and Finance Committee members, including the chairman, Jamie Henio, and delegates Nathaniel Brown, Amber Kanazbah Crotty and Jimmy Yellowhair.

Also attending were Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne and Acting Controller Elizabeth Begay.

The Investment Committee serves as advisors to the B&F Committee.

Vice President Myron Lizer said, “The Nation’s investments play a critical role in our economy and have an enormous impact on all communities and families on the Navajo Nation.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, “our economy persevered, and we continued the mission to build the Nation’s investment portfolio.”

The Nation’s investment portfolio must be diversified to increase overall revenue and rates of return, he said.

The Investment Committee will continue meeting this week and will receive more updates and reports.

Flags at half-staff for veteran Jerrold Brown

WINDOW ROCK – All flags on the Navajo Nation are being flown at half-staff today in honor of U.S. Army veteran Jerrold L. Brown who passed away in Irving, Texas, at the age of 47.
Brown was Tó’aheedlíinii, born for Táb??há. He was originally from Crownpoint.

Brown served with the U.S. Army for 24 years, including six tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, and was stationed in Germany and Hawaii.

“During this difficult time, we pray that his family friends, and comrades take comfort in knowing that he is now with our Creator, said President Jonathan Nez.

Survivors include three children, his mother, Lorraine Hoskie, siblings Jennifer Brown, Kevin Hubbell and Robyn Hubbell, and grandparents Ross and Betty Vicenti. The funeral service is today.

Condolences to family of William Begay

WINDOW ROCK – On Nov. 24, condolences were sent to the family of Delegate William “Willie” Begay, who passed away at the age of 68.

Originally from Kayenta, Begay was born in August 1953 near Monument Valley, Utah. He was Kinyaa’áanii, born for Tl’izi Lani.

A 1972 graduate of Monument Valley High, Begay attended Utah State University in Logan, Utah. He served on the Navajo Nation Council representing Kayenta and Chilchinbeto.

Former Speaker Lorenzo Bates said, “We had the honor of working with Delegate Willie Begay on many projects that impacted the lives of families in the Western Agency of the Navajo Nation. He was a major advocate for our students and teachers by getting funding for the Kayenta Community School he represented.”

Delegate Nathaniel Brown said, “It is through his hard work and advocacy that the Kayenta Health Center was funded. Delegate Begay was able to get the street lighting on Highway 163 constructed, the Laguna Creek bridge built, and pedestrian walkways funded.”

Willie Begay is survived by his wife and four children. His mother was Marion Yazzie Begay and father was Walter Begay Sr., former Kayenta Chapter president.

Condolences to family of Billy Nez

WINDOW ROCK – On Nov. 23, condolences were also sent to the family Billy Nez, a community leader and All Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association Gold Card member, from Tselani Springs, Ariz.
Nez was Tsénjíkiní, born for Tábąąhá. He served four years as the Tselani/Cottonwood Chapter president and was a grazing official for over 25 years.

He served for 10 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Roads Management Division, seven years with the Santa Fe Railroad and eight years with the Navajo Peacemaking Program.

Nez is survived by nine children, 13 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 53 years, Jean Lee Nez
He was laid to rest on Wednesday, Nov. 24, at the Black Mountain Mission Cemetery in Tselani/Cottonwood, Ariz.

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