SRP, NTUA and APPA Complete Pilot Phase of ‘Light Up Navajo’
Salt River Project linemen have returned home after working on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona from April 27 to May 18 to provide electricity to families who have never before had power.
SRP was one of 25 volunteer utilities that participated in the ‘Light Up Navajo’ electrification project led by the American Public Power Association (APPA) and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA).
This week, a total of 228 Native American families now have electricity in their homes. SRP line crews are directly responsible for connecting 42 of those families.
"The challenge our linemen usually face is restoring power to customers - especially during storm season however, during this assignment, we built completely new electrical infrastructure," said Bret Marchese, SRP director of Distribution Maintenance. "I will never forget seeing the faces of the people who received power for the first time. It was an honor to help improve the quality of life for residents on the Navajo Nation."
During the six-week humanitarian effort, line crews constructed about 42 miles of distribution line. SRP crews set 249 poles, strung 26 miles of overhead wire and worked 3,250 hours of donated man-hours. It has been an historic, life-changing experience for the veteran SRP line workers, based out of the Tempe Service Center.
"There are so many things we take for granted like running water and power, but families we helped to energize had never had either. It is very humbling that people are living like this in northeastern Arizona – in our own backyard," said Kory Nichols, SRP manager of field maintenance. "As our crews worked, the customers really observed what it took to construct and deliver power. When we finished energizing their homes, they took the time to shake each crew member’s hand and were sincere in thanking us."
A total of 30 SRP employees participated in the project and worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. SRP donated employee time, line trucks, digging equipment and a mechanic service truck.
"My most memorable moment of the ‘Light Up Navajo’ project was when I spoke to a 54-year-old woman who had been waiting for electricity her entire life. I will never forget how her eyes lit up when she talked about having power," said Jesus Rodriguez, SRP line section supervisor. "The whole experience humbled me and made me very proud to work for a company like SRP that cares and goes above and beyond to get involved to improve peoples’ lives."
According to APPA, 300,000 people reside on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. At this point, just under 15,000 homes still do not have electricity. APPA and NTUA hope to continue with "Light Up Navajo" efforts. The organizations will review the pilot phase to determine next steps. The public is invited to help donate to the effort and can learn more at www.publicpower.org/donate-light-navajo.