Austin Energy Crews Help Bring Power for the First Time to Homes in the Navajo Nation
June 2, 2022
KAYENTA, AZ — Many members in the Navajo Nation have
been waiting a lifetime to turn on their lights and take a hot shower. Thanks to a partnership between Austin Energy,
the American Public Power Association (APPA), the Navajo Tribal Utility
Authority (NTUA), community members can do just that.
Eight Austin Energy staff, along with utility providers in nine other states, traveled to Kayenta, Arizona to provide this life-changing service. The lineworkers, crew leaders and supervisory staff worked alongside the NTUA to connect Navajo families to the electric grid.
“Imagine taking a hot shower for granted,” Daniel Bouvier, an Austin Energy lineworker said. “[These families] no longer have to heat up water outside to take a hot shower or get gasoline to use in a generator to turn the light on in their house. The work was very touching and emotional and I’m glad we were able to make a difference in their lives.”
Not having access to electricity has many repercussions for Navajo families: lack of access to running water, reliable lighting, modern forms of home heating and cooling, and appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves. Families in the Navajo Nation drive 1-1.5 hours once or twice a week to reach watering points where they can fill 250-gallon plastic tanks with water for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. To keep food from perishing, families often have to use portable coolers filled with ice to preserve their food.
Austin Energy teams also helped construct an eight-pole line extension to add needed infrastructure to the area. Travis Helmerichs, Austin Energy lineworker, recalls that the rugged Arizona terrain, hot and dry conditions and red, sandy soil made driving heavy equipment difficult at times. Those challenges, however, were part of what made the experience all the more rewarding.
“We’re lineworkers; we’ll take any opportunity to go do linework,” Helmerichs said. “What I didn’t expect was the overall sense of gratification that came from bringing electricity to people who had never had power before, had never been able to turn on a light, turn on a stove. It was a great experience and one I’ll always remember.”