San Juan County and Navajo Nation sign road agreement
San Juan County and the Navajo Department of Transportation (NDOT) have come to an agreement about the maintenance of a handful of roads used as school bus routes in the southern portion of the county.
An agreement between the two entities was signed on February 24 at a ceremony at Teec Nos Pos, AZ. The ceremony included Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and all three members of the San Juan County Commission.
It is the first official step in an attempt to resolve long-standing challenges over the maintenance of roads on the Navajo Nation. This new agreement involves a limited number of roads but that may change over time.
Hundreds of miles of dirt roads link dispersed homes across the San Juan County portion of the Navajo Nation.
Snow in the winter, runoff in the spring, and flooding caused by monsoon rains can all cause significant challenges when the dirt turns to mud, particularly for the school buses that bring students to school from across the area.
Nearly every student on the reservation rides the bus to get to school. School attendance is a significant challenge when the roads are difficult to travel.
The inherent challenges of the road system are magnified by issues regarding sovereignty, as roads are considered a sovereignty issue by the Navajo Nation.
In 2018, the San Juan County Road Department was notified by NDOT that it did not have a right of way to maintain the roads it historically maintained on the reservation.
Since that time, local residents have complained that road maintenance has failed to meet previous standards.
In addition to being a recurring topic of conversation among local residents, the question has been raised to officials at numerous public meetings, including county commission and chapter meetings.
The issue has become a top priority for San Juan County Commissioners. Commission Chairman Kenneth Maryboy has stated at several meetings that they have not just been knocking on the door of the Navajo Nation to resolve the issue, but they have been knocking down the door.
NDOT has similar agreements with counties in Arizona and New Mexico.