The To’hajiilee Water Project Task Force brought together key stakeholders from federal, state, county and tribal entities in conjunction with representatives of private land holders to discuss a common goal: to get clean water to the Village of To’hajiilee. The TWPTF began meeting Aug. 14 and concluded its regular biweekly meeting schedule Nov. 13. While these task force meetings initiated the often difficult, yet important, discussions, collaborations and negotiations to reach its goal, others chose to use their ties with the media to spread misconceptions, to finger-point and blame.
The simple truth is all parties who came to the TWPTF table were committed to the goal and dedicated their time to clear the air of misconceptions and move forward. They did not spend time blaming. They were not pressured by the media and false narratives. They wanted to talk and negotiate. Although the Bernalillo County Commission voted in April to proceed with condemnation, if necessary, no action was taking place to get water to To’hajiilee between then and Aug. 14, when the task force began meeting. The TWPTF was originally formed because key stakeholders believed there was a better way to handle this crisis than go through a long and arduous litigation that could last years. Water needed to start flowing to To’hajiilee sooner rather than later.
The TWPTF established a positive momentum as meetings provided a platform for representatives of To’hajiilee and Western Albuquerque Land Holdings to present and share their views of the situation. So imagine the surprise when the momentum was thwarted by a threat of litigation from Bernalillo County. All members of the TWPTF were stunned, including a few of the county commissioners. That threat could have been perceived as pressure for WALH to sell the necessary easement to construct the water pipeline to To’hajiilee, and it could have halted the valuable efforts of the TWPTF. But that threat had no power over the will and strength of the task force. Members overwhelmingly wanted to stay the course and continue the collaboration and negotiation that would ultimately benefit the people of To’hajiilee.
The TWPTF recently accomplished its goal. Sincere thanks extend out to the task force members who showed up at the table for each meeting, the task force chair, Daniel Ivey-Soto, for his dedication and unwavering support of all entities involved, and the leadership of the To’hajiilee Chapter, Navajo Nation, engineers, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, WALH and the Bernalillo County Commission. The work of this task force is proof that great things can be accomplished when we work together, not against each other.