The flip of a light switch is something most of us take for granted. Yet it’s something 228 families who reside on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona weren’t able to do until recently.
Crews from SRP, along with those from 24 other utilities, participated in the “Light Up Navajo” project led by the American Public Power Association (APPA) and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA). The effort brought power to some of the 15,000 homes, beyond SRP’s service territory on the Navajo Nation, that do not have electricity.
Thirty 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.
“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.”
Making a difference
One of those individuals was Navajo Nation resident Fannie Shorthair.
“It overwhelms my heart that all these people from all of these different places are here to help me,” Shorthair said. “It makes me want to scream with happiness.”
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 man-hours. It has been a historic, life-changing experience for the veteran SRP line workers, based out of the Tempe Service Center facility.
“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.”
Navajo Nation resident Rethema Kenny, sitting alongside her two children and husband, said the experience was “overwhelming.”
“We’re so very grateful,” Kenny said. “We’ve just been living on dry foods and stuff that wouldn’t expire, so it’s been pretty tough.”
How to help
According to the APPA, 300,000 people live on the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation, spanning across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The APPA and NTUA will review the pilot phase to determine next steps in the “Light Up Navajo” efforts. Learn more and donate to help.