Navajo Hopi Land Commission receives update on proposed solar energy development at Paragon Ranch

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Hopi Land Commission received a report today on the planned solar energy project at Paragon Ranch near Crownpoint, N.M., from the Navajo Nation Renewable Energy Taskforce and Matinee Energy LLC.

The commission, through Public Law 93-305 or the Navajo and Hopi Relocation Amendments Act of 1980, has the power from the U.S. Congress to select and recommend land transfers to the Bureau of Indian Affairs – this includes the transfer of lands under the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state and private lands into Navajo Nation trust land.

According to the act, the Navajo Nation cannot transfer more than 250,000 acres of BLM lands and it cannot exceed 150,000 acres in private lands into trust. These lands also need to be located 18 miles within the present Navajo boundaries in order to be transferred into Navajo Nation trust land.

The Paragon Ranch is a mixture of BLM and state lands; it was selected by the commission for the development of a solar farm for the economic benefit of Navajo-relocatees and the Navajo Nation. A land mass of 21,000 acres of the ranch has been selected for the proposed solar power project and is currently being conveyed into trust status.

The Navajo Nation Renewable Energy Taskforce recommends renewable energy developments and integrates technical and financial advice on the developments of Navajo Nation lands to the Resources Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council.

The taskforce has the ingredients to make the project at Paragon Ranch a possibility through its team members and the proposed developer Matinee Energy LLC. The taskforce includes: Council Delegate George Arthur (T’iistoh Bikaad/San Juan/Nenanezad), chairman of the Resources Committee; Arvin Trujillo, executive director of the Navajo Division of Resources; Attorney General Louis Denetsosie; Marty Ashley, executive director of the Navajo Nation Tax Department; and two Navajo consultants, Bill McCabe, president of McCabe and Associates, and Steven Gunderson, president of Tallsalt Financial Group. McCabe and Gunderson are the consultants applying technical and financial assistance on the solar project.

Matinee Energy has been in discussion with the taskforce and they have expressed the need to develop the project in phases and agreed to negotiations of the tribe being a majority owner or 51% of the project. This would allow for the Navajo Nation and the commission to receive taxes and market rates for leases, profits and industry networking.

Arvin Trujillo said the Navajo Nation needs to break-away from the landlord process for energy development.

“We are trying to break away from landlord partnership to be part-owners and to protect interests of the people and the Nation,” Trujillo explained. “With solar, we are in the process of establishing guidelines to make opportunities available.”

The proposed solar farm at Paragon Ranch would model the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority’s Big Boquillas Ranch Wind Project and once representation from the commission is selected, a final negotiation will take place for the construction of the solar farm.

In an effort to help get this project in full swing, Council Delegate Amos Johnson (Forest Lake) recommended the taskforce endorse a commissioner to its team to improve communications.

“We really don’t want this to be a trial and error project,” Johnson said. “We hope that we can get cooperation on this project and move forward with the commission’s help in working with the proposed developer.”

The commission and the taskforce view this project as a viable opportunity for the Navajo Nation’s future, which would create economic benefits for the relocatees and other energy development through maximizing land value.

“The idea here is how to create a viable economy for the Navajo Nation,” Trujillo said. “How do we expand beyond land lease agreements and how do we go into other areas such as bringing manufacturing to the Nation. We want to tie in Navajo preference and business laws for this project. We want to make sure Navajos are involved — Big Boquillas and NTUA is an example.”

Southbound I-17 slope repair starts March 15

Expect half-hour delays at night near Sunset Point

PRESCOTT – Drivers who use southbound Interstate 17 to travel from northern Arizona into the Phoenix area at night should plan on delays of approximately 30 minutes starting next week.

The Arizona Department of Transportation will begin overnight repair work Monday night (March 15) on a slope next to southbound I-17 about two miles south of the Sunset Point Rest Area.

For safety’s sake, ADOT has been monitoring the slope for a couple of weeks because a portion of it, saturated by recent rains, shifted and exposed loose rocks.

Southbound I-17 will be narrowed to one lane south of Sunset Point from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday nights over a two-week period. 

Drivers are asked to slow down, allow extra travel time, and follow directional signs while staying alert for workers and equipment in the area.

Information about highway conditions across Arizona is available by visiting ADOT’s Travel Information site at www.az511.gov or by calling 5-1-1.

As part of ADOT’s public safety mission, crews will concentrate their overnight work on removing loose rocks along the I-17 slope to reduce the risk of rock fall in the area.

Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., advises learning from ancestors to avoid shortages, problems from severe weather emergencies

SANTA FE, N.M. – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., says if Navajos can remember the lessons of their grandparents, they can avoid many of the problems associated with severe weather emergencies that tend to occur year after year.
 
“Growing up, I don’t remember any talk about emergencies,” he told some 300 participants at the 2010 Navajo Division of Public Safety and Emergency Management Conference at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino here Tuesday. “Fifty to 60 years ago, there was no such thing as an emergency.”
 
The reason is because every Navajo family knew how to prepare for the coming winter by storing food from the fall harvest, gathering a large supply of firewood when the weather was good, and putting up enough livestock feed for several months. After that was done, families held ceremonies and prayed for snow, rain and were unconcerned about mud.
 
“They welcomed big snow, a lot of rain,” President Shirley said. “We had ceremonies to bring them on because they wanted to plant and have a good harvest.”
 
He said families who lived in remote areas – and most places were – got themselves ready to have access cut off.
 
“First of all, we prepared ourselves,” he said. “We lived off the earth. We took care of each other. We can borrow from our ancestors. They planned ahead very deliberately.”
 
He said families put up stores of dried peaches, pumpkin, beef jerky, corn, squash, piñon nuts, honey, cactus, and had goat’s milk to drink. They were prepared to go four or five months in isolation.
 
“There was plenty,” he said. “That was the way our people prepared themselves for the coming snow. We knew each other, we helped each other, and we visited each other.”
 
He said all Navajos knew to begin to gather resources during the summertime.
 
“Our families a long time ago were proactive,” he said. “They planned ahead. They prepared themselves for the long winter ahead.”
 
Once, he said, the Navajo people were known as fierce, proud and independent. He said the people and the government need to adopt those qualities for today so that the Nation can return to standing on its own. He said chapter governments need to get Local Governance certified so they can plan for every need their people have.

“I think we have the wherewithal to do it,” he said.
 
Today, he said, state, federal and county governments are always ready to help the Navajo Nation during emergencies, offering thanks again to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer for their assistance during Operation Snowfall 2010.
 
“State governments are always there to help,” the President said. “They reach out. They ask, ‘What can we do to help?’”
 
He also thanked the Navajo Department of Emergency Management for coordinating the command center, the Navajo Department of Law Enforcement, divisions and programs that assisted and whose staff volunteered, and NTUA, NAPI, Navajo Nation Oil & Gas Enterprise and the Fire Rock Casino for their contributions, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the road clearance.
 
He said the criteria for today’s emergency managers is three-fold; to ensure there is no loss of life, to ensure there is no irreparable harm to anyone, and to ensure there is little or no loss of property.
 
“We need to go through it and we are going through it and we’ll get through it,” he said. “It’s with it in mind to do it better.

Intergovernmental Relations Committee passes legislation to construct new Kayenta Health Care Facility

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council passed Legislation No. 0089-10 approving a lease agreement between the Navajo Nation and the Indian Health Service for the new Kayenta Health Care Facility to be constructed in Kayenta, Ariz. 

With the committee’s approval of Legislation 0089-10, sponsored by Council Delegate David Shondee (Chilchinbeto/Kayenta), the community can now move forward with construction, operation and maintenance of the Kayenta Health Care Facility, which will be located on 64 acres of tribal trust land to be leased for 20 years and with a price tag of $150 million.

Glena Manymules Bitsoi, health planner with the Navajo Division of Health, said the lease approval is necessary for construction to occur and said, “The project also includes building 129 housing units for medical staff and equipment for the health facility.”

The current health care center in Kayenta offers outpatient care and 24-hour emergency medical services to more than 75,000 outpatients and to nearly 9,000 patients within the Kayenta service area. However, inpatient services is absent from the facility, which is crucial to this service unit which extends into portions of Apache, Coconino and Navajo Counties in Arizona and San Juan County in Utah.

In addition to what the current health center provides, the new health care facility will offer a 10 bed short- stay nursing unit that provides sub-acute care, a three-bed low risk birthing center, comprehensive ambulatory care, ancillary services, preventative community health services, behavioral health services, service unit administration and facility support services.

These inpatient services will decrease the need to transport patients to other hospitals as well as shorten the drive for those who travel long distances to other hospitals for their specialized needs. The new health facility will also provide more than 400 job opportunities for the community of Kayenta, as well as surrounding areas boosting the local economy.

Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., advises learning from ancestors to avoid shortages, problems from severe weather emergencies

SANTA FE, N.M. – Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., says if Navajos can remember the lessons of their grandparents, they can avoid many of the problems associated with severe weather emergencies that tend to occur year after year.

“Growing up, I don’t remember any talk about emergencies,” he told some 300 participants at the 2010 Navajo Division of Public Safety and Emergency Management Conference at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino here Tuesday. “Fifty to 60 years ago, there was no such thing as an emergency.”

The reason is because every Navajo family knew how to prepare for the coming winter by storing food from the fall harvest, gathering a large supply of firewood when the weather was good, and putting up enough livestock feed for several months. After that was done, families held ceremonies and prayed for snow, rain and were unconcerned about mud.

“They welcomed big snow, a lot of rain,” President Shirley said. “We had ceremonies to bring them on because they wanted to plant and have a good harvest.”

He said families who lived in remote areas – and most places were – got themselves ready to have access cut off.

“First of all, we prepared ourselves,” he said. “We lived off the earth. We took care of each other. We can borrow from our ancestors. They planned ahead very deliberately.”

He said families put up stores of dried peaches, pumpkin, beef jerky, corn, squash, piñon nuts, honey, cactus, and had goat’s milk to drink. They were prepared to go four or five months in isolation.

“There was plenty,” he said. “That was the way our people prepared themselves for the coming snow. We knew each other, we helped each other, and we visited each other.”

He said all Navajos knew to begin to gather resources during the summertime.

“Our families a long time ago were proactive,” he said. “They planned ahead. They prepared themselves for the long winter ahead.”

Once, he said, the Navajo people were known as fierce, proud and independent. He said the people and the government need to adopt those qualities for today so that the Nation can return to standing on its own. He said chapter governments need to get Local Governance certified so they can plan for every need their people have.

“I think we have the wherewithal to do it,” he said.

Today, he said, state, federal and county governments are always ready to help the Navajo Nation during emergencies, offering thanks again to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer for their assistance during Operation Snowfall 2010.

“State governments are always there to help,” the President said. “They reach out. They ask, ‘What can we do to help?’”

He also thanked the Navajo Department of Emergency Management for coordinating the command center, the Navajo Department of Law Enforcement, divisions and programs that assisted and whose staff volunteered, and NTUA, NAPI, Navajo Nation Oil & Gas Enterprise and the Fire Rock Casino for their contributions, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the road clearance.

He said the criteria for today’s emergency managers is three-fold; to ensure there is no loss of life, to ensure there is no irreparable harm to anyone, and to ensure there is little or no loss of property.

“We need to go through it and we are going through it and we’ll get through it,” he said. “It’s with it in mind to do it better.”

Intergovernmental Relations Committee approves $3.6 million to improve road conditions in Navajo communities

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the 21st Navajo Nation Council passed Legislation No. 0107-10; thus, approving $3.6 million to address road maintainance of dirt roads impacted by the recent wintry weather experienced on the Navajo Nation.

The communities of Birdsprings, Kaibeto and Leupp, Ariz. and Counselor, Mariano Lake and Naschitti, New Mex. have been identified to receive funding for road maintenance. From the funding, two snow plows, two bull dozers, three fuel trucks, one transportation trailer and one vehicle will be purchased to maintain these communities’ roads. Additionally, 21 senior equipment operators, heavy equipment operators and laborers will be hired to maintain these roads.
 
The source of funding comes from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) Indian Reservation Road System Construction Fund, which will provide services to maintain roads for nine months.

This legislation also extends the memorandum of agreement, an exchange of services for maintaining dirt roads, between the BIA and the Navajo Department of Transportation to Dec. 31, 2011.
 
Legislation No. 0107-10, sponsored by Johnny Naize (Tselani/Cottonwood/Nazlini), passed the committee with a 10-0 vote.

STATEMENT BY GOVERNOR JAN BREWER

 “I have been asked by Arizona news media to respond to a recent statement by Senators McCain and Kyl regarding the appropriate solutions to balance Arizona’s state budget.

 

 “Never before in my 28 years as an elected official have I supported a tax increase.  And although it is not a budget deficit I created, I am firm in my determination and responsibility to resolve it.

 

“The Arizona Legislature and I have already adopted the largest permanent spending reductions in state history – well over $2 billion permanently reduced, out of what was once a $10 billion annual budget, with the adoption of this year’s plan. Cutting another $1 billion from our children’s classrooms, or from law enforcement and first responders, is no solution.  The consequences are far too severe.  Nor is borrowing billions more, and saddling our children and our children’s children with the payments.

 

 “Arizona’s massive budget deficit demands responsible solutions from its elected leaders.  That is why I have advocated the opportunity on May 18th for Arizona voters to support my efforts on behalf of our children’s education and for the safety of our families, and to support a constitutionally-guaranteed temporary increase of 1 cent per dollar on the state sales tax.  Doing the right thing often means doing the hard thing, but our children and their future deserve no less.”