WINDOW ROCK — Access to water.
That was one of the topics Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren talked with Brigadier General Antoinette R. Gant, Commander and Division Engineer of the South Pacific Division for the Army Corps of Engineers, on Thursday morning.
After an hour-long conversation, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to advance critical infrastructure projects across the Navajo Nation.
The MOU outlines a clear path to address and advance many of the Navajo Nation’s infrastructure priorities. This new agreement highlights the commitment of both parties to create a sustainable and improved quality of life for the Navajo people.
“The signing of this MOU marks a significant milestone in our ongoing collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers,” said President Nygren. “We are confident that this partnership will help us to address the pressing infrastructure challenges we face, from improving our water systems and roads to enhancing our public facilities.”
The MOU also designates the Albuquerque District for the Army Corps of Engineers as the lead district for Navajo Nation projects, streamlining communication and coordination. This is a crucial development as the Navajo Nation, due to its size, has historically been serviced by three separate districts within the Army Corps of Engineers.
“This MOU not only simplifies our communication approach but also reinforces our commitment to the Navajo people. We are ready to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to bring their engineering skills and resources to bear on the infrastructure challenges faced by the Navajo Nation” said Executive Director Justin Ahasteen of the Navajo Nation Washington Office.
This agreement will expedite and prioritize projects that directly benefit the Navajo Nation, enhancing the living conditions, economic opportunities, and overall well-being of its people.
The health of the Navajo people has centered around the interconnected social and ecological systems. But they’re being disrupted by climate change. So, water quality and a lack of water access have been contributing to water being harder to acquire on the Navajo Nation.
With drier landscapes, plants that are important to the Navajo people have disappeared, including cottonwood, willow, and reeds.
“After we sign the MOA, I want to bring everybody back together: the Navajo Land Department, water resources, NTUA, NECA, DCD, and NHA; figure out and have one solid list of where projects need to happen.
The MOA will help develop a stronger relationship between the Army Corps of Engineers and the Navajo Nation with the hopes that it ensures a cooperative approach to infrastructure development.
“It’s a good start of a collaboration that will help people to get basic services,” said President Nygren.