NAVAJO NATION, AZ — For decades, people who live on the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona have waited for electricity.
"It's humbling because you take these every day luxuries for granted, you reach over, touch a wall and light comes on," said Bret Marchese, a distribution manager with Salt River Project.
SRP was approached by the American Public Power Association to volunteer for this cause.
"We have helped in New York, Puerto Rico and now we get a chance to help the Navajo Nation," added Marchese. He and his crew of 10 will leave to northern Arizona on Saturday for a week-long effort of taking power from distribution lines, down a transformer, and directly to the individual homes.
The homes are located remotely throughout 27,000 square miles, with little infrastructure between them. In Arizona, there are approximately 15,000 homes that have never had access to power.
"So us bringing power to a home allow them to then be able to have water in the future," added Marchese.
One of the fortunate Navajo Nation residents to be able to watch TV come next week is 70-year-old Fanny Shorthair, who according to the American Public Power Association, has been waiting for power for her entire lifetime.
When asked by a representative of the association what she plans on doing once her home is powered her response was, "read, I love to read, make toast, and watch TV (laughing)."
SRP crews will be working on this project for three weeks and crews will be rotated on a weekly basis. The materials are being donated by the association and the Navajo Nation. SRP is providing the equipment and the manpower.
"I think this will enhance their lives, for safety reasons, for lighting reasons, access to hospitals...it will help improve their lives as well," said SRP Foreman Kyle Bridges.
This is a pilot project that SRP hopes to continue participating in for years to come. Bridges and Chris Stinski both say that while they have had plenty of experience restoring power, bringing power for the first time to these people, is a first.
"It gives us pride, 'we are gonna get them back in power' now we are actually getting an opportunity to go beyond that and get power to people who have never had it," said Stinski.