$1 million earmarked for Black Mesa mud
By Kathy Helms, Diné Bureau,
Independent, FEBRUARY 27, 2008
WINDOW ROCK — Since word went out Monday
about snow and mud conditions in the Black Mesa area,
“it has triggered a lot of response,” Delegate Amos
Johnson said Tuesday afternoon during a break in the
Navajo Nation Council's debate on allocating $1 million
for Emergency Management to deal with weather-related
“I got a call from Apache County, Mr.
Jim Clah, who is willing to help us with fuel for our
equipment, and then Apache County is also willing to
help us distribute some of the food that was purchased
for the people that is still sitting there at the chapter
He said he also had spoken Tuesday morning
with Chief of Staff Patrick Sandoval and learned that
a request had gone in for assistance from the National
Emergency Management Executive Director
Jimson Joe said he and other Navajo Nation officials
met Monday night with chapter officials and community
members at Forest Lake. “We are moving in and we have
set up an incident command post at the chapter house.
We are in communication with that post with our Emergency
Operations Center here in Window Rock.
“We have submitted a letter of request
for air support and we are conducting an assessment
with Forest Lake and Black Mesa area to confer what
their needs are and see if we need additional resources.”
Speaking from Forest Lake Tuesday evening
via satellite phone, Selena Manychildren, public information
officer, said “Operation Gray Clay” is up and running,
with David Nez, program manager for the Bioterrorism
Preparedness Program, serving as incident commander.
“They formed five assessment teams this
morning that are out in the community of Forest Lake,
Kitsillie, Black Mesa, Hard Rock and the Pinon vicinity.
They're mainly out there to identify roads, identify
damages and take photographs; they're doing welfare
checks and basically identifying needs through rapid
“We're waiting to hear from the teams.
We're going to stay here and depending on the assessments
that we get at the end of the day, we might make a few
deliveries to the families that are most impacted. We'll
find out from the assessments what our next step will
be,” she said. “Earlier today we had one crew get stuck.
It's just kind of a mess out here.”
Joe said individuals with medical needs
and health risks are Emergency Management's highest
priority. “We are continuing to focus our major efforts
on opening those roads up. In lieu of not being able
to get through the mud, we are using the air support
to verify in any way that people cannot go in or out
to their residences. “We know that the schools have
not been conducting school because of the roads.”
Road conditions have brought the community
to a standstill, he said. “The location of these communities
is at high elevations where they have been receiving
more snow than any other areas, as well as rain combined.
The soil saturation has become so high that any moisture
they get contributes and exacerbates the mud situation.
“What they have out there is clay, and
the geographic structure is they have mountains and
just flat valleys, so the water has no place to go but
to be on the ground. The water is being held by the
soil, therefore, the mud is going to be holding out
much longer than in other areas.”
But Black Mesa is not the only area
that's hurting. Delegate Harriett Becenti, who represents
Rock Springs, Tseyatoh and Manuelito, caught up with
Joe during the Council break to seek help for residents
in her chapters.
“We had a real deep snow in all three
areas and right now our area is very muddy and the trenches
are like 1 foot deep. In some areas people only have
cars, and people that are high-risk and on medication,
such as diabetic, some of them are stranded back there.
They were trying to call the chapter as well as Emergency
“I know this one lady — she's a diabetic
— she's stranded and she needs to go to the hospital.
She has a cell phone so she called me yesterday evening.”
Becenti alerted Rock Springs Chapter but was unsure
whether anyone had been able to reach the woman.
“We can't even send a grader in there
because it's going to cause more damage to the road
until it dries out some, is what they were saying. I
don't know exactly how they're going to get some of
these high-risk individuals out of the remote areas.
They either come in with a helicopter or some kind of
special vehicle because the ruts are so deep.
“They say you can come out when the
ground is frozen, but you're going to damage your vehicle
even though the ground is frozen because the rut is
so high and deep you can't even drive on top of it.”
Delegate Larry Noble said he is still
trying to get help for residents in Beshbito Valley,
where North Valley Road washed out after a dam broke.
“I contacted Mr. Jimson Joe of Emergency
Management to do an assessment because people live in
the northern area up in the hills there, that utilize
the dirt road that was flooded. People were stranded
on the north side and the south side for a number of
Noble said that during times of heavy
rains, the road often floods, so, even though Bureau
of Indian Affairs, Navajo and county officials met to
discuss the problem, nobody bothered to check to see
where the water was coming from. “They talked about
the road but didn't realize that the dam broke further
up. This was about 2 weeks ago,” he said.
“The road is not fixed yet. The water
level is below the break so it’s a little bit better.
Hopefully in a couple weeks the road should be passable
with a car. Right now, it's only trucks. We have ruts
that are a foot or more deep. Half-ton trucks, they
can't make it through there,” he said.
“There are, I would say, 50 families
that are way up in the hills and even along the road
there that are stranded.”