Commission approves resolutions supporting RECA and proposed Navajo Mountain road

The San Juan County Commission approved a resolution asking for the extension of a federal act for victims of radiation, passed a resolution asking for help to build the Oljato-Navajo Mountain road, and passed new bylaws for the planning and zoning commission at their latest meeting.
The Commission unanimously approved a resolution thanking Utah Senator Mike Lee for his work to extend the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) and urged the Utah federal delegation to support the passage of the bill to extend RECA benefits.
The program offers compensation to uranium industry workers during the cold war and their families who suffered from exposure to hazardous radiation, often leading to rare forms of cancer.
The act also offers compensation to downwinders, people who lived downwind of the Nevada nuclear test sites that have suffered negative health effects. San Juan is among the counties downwind of the test sites.
The Act was first passed by congress in 1990 and expanded and extended in July 2000. The extension of the Act in the year 2000 noted that all claims must be in by July 10, 2022. 
Now representatives are working to extend the act again, and at their March 15 meeting members of the San Juan County Commission added their support of the continuation of the act.
Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy spoke about the need for the continuation of the act.
“People are still dealing with a huge impact on the family members and also friends across San Juan County. A lot of people were impacted here in Monticello and the same thing with the reservation.”
Commissioner Bruce Adams reported Senator Lee’s office has been working on extending the act for more than a year.
“I certainly commend the resolution that’s before us and fully support this as I know many, many, many people from San Juan County have been helped with these compensations.”
Adams pointed out that groups such as the Monticello victims of mill tailings exposure helped establish the act, by tracking the more than 700 people who lived in Monticello during uranium mill tailings that have died of cancer. 
Commissioner Willie Grayeyes noted that his community of Naatsisʼáán has also seen the impacts of exposure to radiation. Including his own family. 
“My grandmother and my uncles would succumb to cancer. My grandmother was diagnosed as one of the cancers that were registered under this–I believe there are 15 different kinds of cancer and one particular cancer condition is from this radiation as a downwinder.”
The resolution thanking Senator Lee for his work and encouraging the extension of RECA passed unanimously.
Members of the commission also discussed plans for the proposed Oljato to Navajo Mountain road.
The proposed road would connect the Navajo Utah community of Navajo Mountain to the rest of the state. 
While the Navajo Mountain and Oljato chapter houses are separated by about 20 miles as the crow flies, driving between the two communities takes about two hours with most of the travel occurring in Arizona. 
A proposed $170 million road would connect the two communities and also build a bridge over the San Juan River connecting to Highway 276 in San Juan County.
During the Utah state legislative session an early budgeting process indicated the state might contribute $2 million towards an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the planning of the road.
Later the funding was removed from the budget, but there’s still hope that the state might help with the study. In approving their budget the state provided a large lump sum of funds to the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to prioritize funding for projects. 
While the commission has made plans to ask UDOT for funds, at their March 15 meeting the commission passed a resolution asking the Utah Navajo Trust Fund for $1.91 million towards the study for the road.
The resolution was brought to the meeting by Commissioner Grayeyes who lives in the Navajo Mountain community. He says the resolution is to see if the trust fund may consider using some of its funds for the project.
“In 1933, and amended in 1968 the congressional act indicated that these funds are for education, health, and general welfare of the Utah Navajos. So I believe that’s a justification that we can use to access these funds. This is only in the planning stage and seeing if we can get some support.”
Commissioner Adams voted in favor of the resolution. 
“I support what you’re trying to do down there and I supported it when I was representing the area as well.”
Commissioner Maryboy shared his support of the project but voted against the resolution.
“I like the idea, the problem is I’m getting calls from Teec Nos Pos, Red Mesa, and Aneth. The resolution should be directed towards the chapters because the seven chapters are the recipients of the trust fund and the Navajo Revitalization Fund.”
Maryboy advocated for education to the chapters as he says the project does need the money.
Commissioner Grayeyes responded saying the request should be submitted to the trust fund office.
“They can decide whether to approve or disapprove. (...) If the chapters are in-line with the idea that we can not fund these types of projects to improve the general welfare, health, and education I think that’s a neglect of duty.”
The resolution passed in a 2-1 vote with Commissioners Adams and Grayeyes voting for and Commissioner Maryboy voting against.
A request to ask for $94,000 from the Oljato and Navajo Mountain Navajo Revitalization Funds was struck from the commission agenda. Commissioner Grayeyes agreed that those requests could be made to the chapters individually.
During public comment at the meeting, one Navajo Mountain resident voiced opposition to the resolutions. Darlene Pino says there are some people that oppose the road and asked that the commission not move forward with their resolutions.
At the meeting, the commission also approved three of the four appointees to the county planning and zoning commission and also approved an update to the organization's bylaws.
The update to the planning and zoning bylaws came in part from requests of residents in Spanish Valley who asked that the requirements that candidates have experience or knowledge in land-use be struck from the bylaw.
The updated bylaw passed by the commission does change the bylaw so there is now a preference for candidates that have experience or knowledge in land use. Additionally, preferences are given to candidates who have completed state-approved training and there is a stipulation that the commission may waive those preferences to ensure representation from all areas in the county. 
The updated bylaws also make requirements for meeting attendance as well as other code clean-ups.
During the meeting, six residents from northern San Juan County asked that the appointments to the board and the changes to the code be tabled for further input. One Monticello resident spoke in favor of moving forward with the planning and zoning items on the agenda.
The commission passed the updates to the bylaw by a vote of 2-0 as Commissioner Maryboy had left the meeting. Commissioner Grayeyes noted his vote was cast with the understanding that the bylaw could be revisited again. 
Among the items for consideration on the agenda was the reappointment of Trent Schaffer to the planning and zoning commission to continue to represent Monticello and the reappointment of Lloyd Wilson to continue to represent Special Service Districts on the commission.
Also up for first-time appointment was Edward Dobson of Bluff and Shik Han of Spanish Valley.
The candidates were recommended for appointment by county staff following an interview process of applicants. The process followed the county bylaws but has been criticized by some northern county residents who also have pushed for the by-law changes. 
Northern San Juan County resident Holly Sloan expressed her personal approval of three of the considered appointees to the board, but hesitancy about the approval for Shik Han to planning and zoning.
“One of the reasons I’ve been outspoken about the requirement for land use expertise is that a person who makes their living as a developer or builder, while bringing important knowledge and experience to the table, may also bring significant conflicts of interest.”
Sloan said while she doesn’t know of any conflicts of interest for Han, who is a developer, but she encouraged the commission to hold on his appointment.
A motion by Commissioner Adams to appoint all four candidates failed with a lack of a second. A second motion by Adams that appointed three of the four candidates, excluding Han, was passed by a vote of 2-0.
Commissioner Adams expressed worry that the commission is making decisions based solely on public comment.
“Most of the public comment was from Spanish Valley or Pack Creek. (...) Shouldn’t we be getting comments, if that’s the way we’re making decisions,  from La Sal, Monticello, Blanding,  the seven chapters before we make a decision? Or do we have a process where we go through interviews and applications and look at qualifications and then when that process is complete then we’re ready to make the decision?”
The commission directed County Administrator Mack McDonald to solicit candidates for an additional 30-day period to fill the Spanish Valley seat on the planning and zoning commission.
At the meeting, the commission also approved the new voting precincts for the county and approved a grant application for funding towards camping stalls at the proposed county fairgrounds events center.

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