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Posted 1/30/2016

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By Dave Palmer

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy accepted the invitation of Navajo Nation Council Delegate Walter Phelps to visit the Nation and speak to the 2016 Winter Council Session of the Navajo Nation Council Jan. 27.

Darcy started the day by meeting with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kirk Gibbs, Albuquerque District Commander Lt. Col. Patrick Dagon, and their staffs.

A key topic of discussion during the session was the Nation's lack of infrastructure, particularly access to water.

"Navajo Nation leadership focused on the need for earthen dams and their ability to store and conserve water," said Gibbs. "They are in great need and I think USACE and the federal government have opportunities to help."

One of the primary goals of the USACE Tribal Nations Program is to reach out and partner with Tribes on water resources projects, a theme echoed by Darcy during her address to the council.

"We are a leader in environmental restoration and protection; about 20 percent of our annual budget is for environmental projects," said Darcy. "I'm hoping that this syncs up quite nicely with what the tribes are leading in doing and that's a lot of habitat recovery."

The USACE program also acknowledges the wisdom that Tribes bring to the table and how our programs, projects and activities are enhanced by their input.

"We're listening to, as well as applying, tribal perspectives for improving our planning process," added Darcy. "I think it's produced a better and much more sensitive approach to cultural projects that we have to be mindful of whenever we undertake a project."

District Tribal Liaison Quana Higgins stated that the Los Angeles District received fiscal 2015 funds, under the Floodplain Management Services Program, that will provide floodplain mapping for much of the Navajo Nation by August 2016.

"This type of service is invaluable for tribal nations due to data gaps on reservation lands," said Higgins. "This can promote the spirit of wise use of floodplains by tribal communities before development."

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy Navajo Nation Council Delegate Walter Phelps Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez tribal liaison USACE Tribal Nations Program