Utah Cities Join Forces to Light up Navajo Nation

Several Utah cities plan to send workers this spring to power up the Navajo Nation in a bid to change the lives of about 60,000 residents of the area.

The Light up Navajo project rolled into action after Murray – situated just the south of Salt Lack City – voted in favor of connecting the residents to the grid. Lehi, Heber, Washington, Santa Clara, and St. George, along with other Utah municipalities across the country are set to dispatch crews to the Four Corners region in Southern Utah for about a week, starting from April 6 – May 18, 2019.

Lineworkers from different parts of the country will be building electric lines for projects that focus on connecting hundreds of families. The “electricity with no deposit” pilot project is meant to serve as a successful base for the upcoming electrification projects.

“We are grateful that utilities across the country are joining forces to send electric line teams to the Navajo Nation,” said Walter “Wally” Haase, the American Public Power Association NTUA General Manager at a conference. “We equally appreciate the communities and families that have supported this effort to help improve the living standards for families that have waited for electricity for many years. The Light up Navajo project is a good effort to bring reliable refrigeration, lighting, and heating, as well as make way for other solutions like running water and internet/cellular communications. Navajo residents will witness that the country cares for them. This is the America I know – people looking out for each other.”

The pilot project that’s expected to connect over 200 families to the grid will only be a tip of the iceberg considering the number of families that have no electricity. But Haase said he hopes it will act as a successful model for future projects in the region. According to the Navajo Utility Tribal Authority (NTUA) manager, the Nation of Navajo was “Ignored” under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, which funded the electrification of isolated areas of the US.

The tribes formed the NTUA in 1959, an energy enterprise that has done everything within its power to meet the utility needs of the natives but has encountered different barriers. Examples of the obstacles include limited availability of government funding and the high cost of connecting the isolated rural homes to the grid. This is according to the American Public Power Association (APPA).

This is where cities like Murray come in. The municipality confirmed its plan of sending four workers and two utility trucks to serve the Light up Navajo project for a week starting May, with an estimated budget of $26,000.

“This is one of those things you hope to never ask for help in the long run, but, to be honest, if we happen to face an earthquake of a bigger magnitude here is Wasatch Front, then we might have to as for some help,” Said Blaine Haacke, a Power Manager in Murray. “This is the least that we could do to help our brothers and sisters.”

Mike Hyland, the Senior VP of Engineering at NTUA stated that the pilot project exemplifies the public power’s spirit. He asserted, “Public power utilities are always set to assist other public power utilities when the need arises – whether it’s an initiative like the Light up Navajo project or a one-time event like a hurricane or severe storm.

Utilities traveling to the Navajo Nation

Week 1 (April 6 to 13): Littleton Light Department (MA), Rochelle Municipal Utilities (IL), Heber Light & Power (UT), Grand River Dam Authority (OK)

Week 2 (April 13 to 20): Littleton Light Department (MA); Farmington Electric Utility System (NM); Rochelle Municipal Utilities (IL); Piqua Power System (OH); West Boylston Municipal Light Plant (MA); DEMEC: Town of Smyrna + City of Milford (DE)

Week 3 (April 20 to 27): Sterling Municipal Light Department (MA); City of Wadsworth (OH); Painesville Electric Department (OH); Lawrenceburg Municipal Utilities (IN); Farmington Electric Utility System (NM); West Boylston Municipal Light Plant (MA); City of Scottsburg (IN); Littleton Light Department (MA)

Week 4 (April 27 to May 4): Sterling Municipal Light Department (MA); Sacramento Municipal Utility District (CA); West Boylston Municipal Light Plant (MA); Salt River Project (AZ); Greenville Electric Utility System (TX); Paxton Municipal Light Department (MA).

Week 5 (May 4 to 11): Salt River Project (AZ); Sacramento Municipal Utility District (CA); Conway Corporation (AR); Piqua Power System (OH); Sterling Municipal Light Department (MA).

Week 6 (May 11 to18): Lehi City Power (UT); Salt River Project (AZ); City of St George (UT); Sterling Municipal Light Department (MA); City of Santa Clara (UT); Washington City Power (UT); Murray City Power (UT);

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.