4/2/2013 12:46:00 PM Navajo Route 20 paving project delayed ADOT needs permission to survey and right of way clearances before beginning construction
Paulson Chaco, Navajo Division of Transportation (NDOT) director, makes a point about the need to coordinate to meet the short timeframe required to have N20 paved by summer 2013. Chaco said NDOT will work with Navajo Nation departments to expedite the approval process for the required permits and clearances. Photo/Rick Abasta
A meeting regarding the proposed paving of Navajo Route 20 as an interim detour to restore essential traffic from U.S. 89 took place at the Arizona Department of Transportation Holbrook office March 25. The Navajo Division of Transportation and Bureau of Indian Affairs team discussed permission to survey and right-of-way clearances required before construction can begin. Photo/Rick Abasta
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) released emergency relief money to help ADOT pave Navajo Route 20, but factors like detour design standards, speed, traffic volume, commercial truck traffic, drainage and livestock provisions must be addressed before work can begin.
The Navajo Division of Transportation (NDOT) met with technical experts from ADOT and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) March 25.
ADOT must submit an application for a temporary easement for the N20 detour route. The agency must update a 2006 environmental assessment and biological evaluation and a cultural resource survey. ADOT must also acquire all necessary permits and clearances from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
ADOT will assume the responsibility of maintaining the detour route until regular traffic is allowed back on U.S. 89.
Dallas Hammit, senior deputy state engineer for ADOT, said he is concerned with the lengthy process and time involved with acquiring the right-of-way application and the need for a legal description survey.
Roland Becenti, acting division manager for the BIA Navajo Region Division of Transportation, said there is not much more environmental work to be done to use the current dirt road alignment.
"There is an existing environmental document, archaeology work and bounds survey has been done. But you're right, the survey work with the legal descriptions is going to take some time," Becenti said.
ADOT right-of-way agent Myra Rothman said there needs to be a meets and bounds legal description in place before applying for the temporary easement.
Hammit asked if it was possible to get permitting to begin design and possibly even construction, while surveying activities were executed.
"(We) could have it as a deliverable to the (Navajo Nation) Land Department within 60 to 90 days after construction is complete. That would be the complete survey and monumentation," Hammit said.
NDOT civil engineer Darryl Bradley said he doubted approval in the 60 to 90 day timeframe.
ADOT said it could provide a temporary legal description and plat while following the designer along the route and writing legal descriptions. However, ADOT survey crews want time to ensure there are no mathematical errors before submission to the Land Department.
In order to speed up the process, Paulson Chaco, NDOT director, said he would direct his project management department to meet with the reviewing parties from the Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife, Land Department, Historic Preservation Department and iron out details before the packet is sent in for review.
This would streamline the approval process, he said, before the permission to survey and Right Of Way applications were submitted for approval.
"If we could submit (the packet) just once, that would be good," Chaco said. "That way you take care of your centerline, profile, cross-section, and the temporary easement at the same time to take care of your meets and bounds."
He said NDOT would see if Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly could speed the process along by allowing ADOT's contractor on N20 to conduct surveying activities, via the emergency declaration the Nation executed Feb. 24.
"I need to get together with the president's office to see if he can issue a letter, short of going through federal regulations," Chaco said.
While there is an existing centerline for N20, there are some "bits and pieces" where there is no centerline, which thwarts efforts to establish meets and bounds necessary for the design.
Simone Jones, acting realty officer for BIA Navajo Region, explained the process for granting an easement for construction.
"Typically, you begin with the permission to survey as step one in the right-of-way process for the BIA, under 25 CFR, Part 169. It requires the consent of the landowner, in this case, it would be the Navajo Nation," Jones said.
She said the Navajo Nation would grant permission to survey for meets and bound description, centerline, and any archaeological or environmental work.
"When we have the tract permission, it's a quick turnaround and the BIA will acknowledge they have tribal consent and according to the Nation's terms and conditions with permission to survey, ADOT can get on the road," Jones said.
ADOT is pushing to have N20 paved sometime this summer.
Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013
Article comment by:
IT IS ABSURD
It is truly absurd when red tape can't be cut on an exception basis when an emergency project, badly needed and already funded, runs into this situation.
WORK TOGETHER, government agencies. Or get out of the way and bring in the Army Corps of Engineers, who will get it done pronto.