Navajo Nation seeks to improve all its airports

SHIPROCK, NM - Navajo Nation officials say the tribe's five airports are ready for some much needed improvements.

The Daily Times reported Tuesday that the Navajo Division of Transportation is developing a master plan to identify infrastructure and security issues that need addressing.

"One thing I noticed is that airports throughout the Navajo Nation have been underutilized, underdeveloped, and need improvement," said Arlando Teller, a transportation division manager who is overseeing the plan.

The tribe operates two airports in New Mexico -- one in Shiprock and one in Crownpoint. There also three in Arizona in Chinle, Window Rock and Tuba City.

Officials are using a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to finance the planning, which includes establishing each airport's layout and funding resources.

They have also been soliciting input from tribe members through a series of workshops this month in both states. The most recent was Tuesday at the Shiprock Chapter house. Among the ideas discussed were runway renovations, additional airstrip lighting and more buildings.

Viviene Tallbull, Shiprock Planning Commission chairwoman, said upgrades could translate to economic benefits.

"It would enhance the tourism in our area," Tallbull said.

However, Tallbull said there is still a question of whether management of an improved airport would fall to tribal personnel in Window Rock or local officials. Currently, workers in charge of routine airport maintenance travel from Window Rock to the five airports.

Teller said he hopes to have local officials oversee the maintenance of their respective airport.

The final public input session is scheduled for Aug. 19 in Tuba City.

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