WINDOW ROCK, AZ – Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, Albuquerque District Commander Lt. Col. Patrick Dagon, and Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kirk Gibbs visited the Navajo Nation, Jan. 27, 2016.
The Navajo Nation is America’s largest tribe and covers 27,000 square miles across three states – Arizona, New Mexico and Utah – and two USACE districts – the Albuquerque and the Los Angeles districts.
Darcy, Dagon and Gibbs met with President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and several staff members to discuss potential areas in which the Corps and the Navajo Nation could partner to help develop under-developed areas of the reservation, including the Bennett Freeze area.
After the meeting with President Begaye, Secretary Darcy addressed the 2016 Winter Council Session of the Navajo Nation Council. She also got input from many of the council members as to how the Corps could partner with the tribe. This was Darcy’s first visit to the Navajo Nation and her first address to the Tribal Council.
Darcy, Dagon and Gibbs later met with several other tribal, state and federal agencies to discuss how they could all work together to meet the needs of the tribe more effectively. The visit concluded on a positive note.
At the Navajo Nation Zoological and Botanical Park, one of the only zoos owned and operated by a tribe in the United States, Park Director David Mikesic, shared how the Corps was able to help them end chronic flooding issues which had threatened the animals there.
The zoo’s drainage was not taken into account in nearby development, resulting in many instances where the zoo’s animals were flooded out with waist-deep water. When Mikesic contacted the Albuquerque District in the summer of 2014, he was put in contact with the District’s Flood Plain Management Services program director Stephen Scissions. Scissions and his team were able to provide technical assistance in the form of examining the zoo’s existing drainage infrastructure and create a drainage management plan. The plan showed how to improve the drainage which would end the chronic flooding, keeping the zoo’s resident animals dry.