Alamo breaks ground on wastewater project

........................................................................................................................................................................................

A long-awaited wastewater project on the Alamo Navajo Indian Reservation is officially under way. Officials from the Navajo Nation, the Alamo Navajo School Board, Inc. and community members participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the $2.6 million project last week at the site, located about a quarter mile northeast of Walters Park.

“This project is about five years in the making,” said Michael Hawkes, executive director of the Alamo Navajo School Board, as the ceremony got under way shortly after noon on Feb. 29.

Hawkes said the need for the wastewater project was recognized during the development of the T’iis Tosh Mini-Mart, a gas station and convenience store located at the intersection of Hwy. 169 and the road that leads to the Alamo Chapter House and a good number of other facilities, including the Wellness Center and Alamo Navajo Community School.

While the mini-mart opened in June 2009, an attached Laundromat remains dormant because the wastewater lagoons servicing the area are both inadequate and in need of replacement.

Hawkes said it was discovered wastewater was seeping into the ground and wound up in the nearby Rio Salado, which flows into the Rio Grande.

“We had to do something because it affects people downstream,” Hawkes said.

John Largo, senior economic development specialist for the Navajo Nation, was also on hand for the ceremony. He said it was an arduous process to secure funding to get the project started, and more money will be needed to complete it.

Largo said it’s a political process to secure funds. The Laundromat was used on the application to obtain funds through the Economic Development Department. Largo said George Apachito, Alamo’s delegate to the Navajo Nation Tribal Council, was instrumental in getting funds allocated to the project.

“George Apachito sits on the Resources and Development Committee, so he has been pushing for this,” Largo said.

Other funding sources included the Alamo Navajo School Board, which put discretionary toward building new lagoons. An application for funding through the USDA has also been submitted.

Hawkes more than $1 million is still needed to complete the project. If the money comes in, the project could be completed within a year’s time.

The day of the groundbreaking ceremony, Alamo officials were hopeful the state of New Mexico might contribute to the project. They got good news Thursday when Gov. Susana Martinez signed a capital outlay bill that put $50,000 toward Alamo’s wastewater project.

Steve Guerro, president of the Alamo Navajo School Board, said the new lagoons wouldn’t serve the entire reservation. But the heart of Alamo, including the wellness center, the health clinic, chapter house, judicial facility, school and some residential neighborhoods, would be served.

“It’s an important project that will allow us to get the laundry mat up and running and be of benefit to the Alamo community,” he said.

Guerro said another major need in Alamo is road improvement. While the governor approved funding for the wastewater project on Thursday, she vetoed a request for $50,000 that would be put toward chip sealing bus routes.

 


-- Email the author at tslast@dchieftain.com.