That’s according to officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who were in Mescalero Friday to announce the awarding of more than $3.6 million in federal funds to develop the system in the Mud Canyon area of the reservation.
According to Fred Kaydahzinne, tribal manager, the system had been coming for several years, but was held up due to a technicality.
“I started here in February, and while I was going through the office, I ran across this project, which was started in 2008. It was just sitting there,” Kaydahzinne said. “There was one document that wasn’t closed out. That’s all it was.”
Once they made this discovery, officials applied to USDA for extra funds to finish off the project, which will service homes that have been in place since the 1970s without any working sewer system.
According to a press release from the USDA, a majority of the funding comes from a Colonia’s grant, with additional money from a direct grant. This, combined with $482,000 supplied by Indian Health Services, brings the total money available for the project to more than $4.1 million.
This will allow for more than 65,000 feet of sewer line to be installed, servicing homes in Mud Canyon, Sanspear Drive and San Juan Drive. The line will also provide service to homes along U.S. 70 and in Blank Canyon, Misquez Lane, Forest Road and Soldier Canyon.
The ultimate goal is to connect the lines with the town of Mescalero’s collection system to be treated at the existing wastewater treatment facility operated by the tribe.
“This is an example of how we’re making the relationship between the native nations and the federal government work,” said Terry Brunner, state director for the USDA. “We hope you can think about us more down the road for further projects.”
Council Vice President Sandra Platero pointed to a dry erase board that had several infrastructure projects that had been on the back burner for several years, and Brunner made a point to write them down in a promise to see that they got completed.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this grant awarded to an Indian tribe,” said Mescalero tribal president Fredrick Chino, Sr. “I want to thank you on behalf of the entire Mescalero nation.”