Commission approves letter to BLM

At their March 2 meeting, the San Juan County Commission approved a letter to the Bureau of Land Management asking them to reject oil and gas leases in the McCracken Mesa area.

The letter was supported by a resolution from the Navajo Utah Commission, and supported in public comment by Red Mesa Chapter Vice President Marilyn Holly and Amanda Podmore, a Bluff resident and contractor with the National Parks Conservation Association.

Commissioner Willie Grayeyes was in favor of the letter, stating, “It’s a very sensitive area for archeological areas and potable water. Those are the concerns that I have.

“I found out the underground flow of the water is going from McCracken Mesa down into the river and into the Bluff area. If there’s any contamination in those areas, that’ll infiltrate into lower potable water.”

Commissioner Bruce Adams expressed concern about the letter, stating, “If the residents down there don’t want to support mineral extraction anymore, the end result at some point is that there will be no money coming from extraction to support the Navajo Revitalization Fund (NRF) and support for the Navajo Trust Fund.

“I think it’s kind of a dangerous thing to continue on this path of not exploring for oil and gas there in the southern part of the county.”

Commissioner Adams added concern about job losses for Navajo people who work in the oil fields.

Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy added that despite Adams’s concerns, the Navajo Utah Commission and individual Navajo Chapters in Utah have expressed their wishes on the item.

The commission voted 2-1 to send the letter, with Maryboy and Grayeyes voting for and Adams voting against.

The commission also approved a runway rehabilitation project at Cal Black Memorial Airport at the March 2 meeting.

The county estimated the project would cost $3.6 million, but the low bid came in at $2.9 million from Killgore and LeGrand Johnson.

The project costs will be covered mostly by the Federal Aviation Administration. The county did budget $180,000 to cover five percent of the cost for the project. However, the county is hopeful the FAA may cover the entire project due to available federal CARES Act funds.

The commission also planned to hold a special meeting on March 11 to discuss the lawsuit settlement agreement between the Navajo Nation and the county regarding voting rights.

The settlement was originally implemented in 2018 and is set to expire in March of 2021. At their February 16 meeting, the commission voted to extend the agreement through 2024.

Commissioner Adams made the motion to approve, with an amendment that struck a requirement to immediately hire attorney Steven Boos and/or David Irvine as the County representatives in the meeting and confer process established in the order.

The amendment was recommended by County Administrator Mack McDonald on legal advice from County Attorney Kendall Laws.

“The hiring of an attorney is really the county attorney’s position,” said McDonald at the meeting. “So there’s nothing that I can do or you can do. It’s up to our county attorney to do that. That’s his elected capacity.”

At the March 2 meeting, Commissioner Maryboy explained he had not understood the motion due to poor internet reception, and expressed a desire to undo the resolution, presumably to replace it with the original language.

Since the item was not on the March 2 agenda, Commissioner Maryboy asked for a special meeting to address the item.

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