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Utah cities to help bring electricity to more Navajo families

View towards Monument Valley from the US Route 163 in Utah. Monument Valley is on Navajo land in San Juan County. (Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Several Utah municipal governments are planning to send city workers this spring to help the Navajo Utility Tribal Authority bring electricity to members of the Navajo Nation who have waited for years.

The test project is expected to get electricity to about 200 families. An estimated 60,000 people on the Navajo Nation live without electricity.

The Salt Lake City suburb of Murray became the latest to join then project called “Light Up Navajo” when its City Council voted to participate at a recent meeting.

Other cities that plan to join include: Heber, Lehi, St. George, Santa Clara and Washington.

Murray will send four workers and two utility trucks for a week in May at a cost to the city of about $26,000.

“These people down there haven’t had electricity ever in their lives,” said Blaine Haacke, Murray’s power manager. “It’s kind of a daunting fact to string wires of line out to a small community out there. But man, to see that power come on for the first time is going to be pretty cool, I think.”

One of the most difficult parts of not having electricity is not being able to store fresh food, said Deenise Becenti, a spokeswoman with the Navajo Utility Tribal Authority. Most people without electricity keep it in coolers and have to continually fill them with ice.

The tribally owned energy organization was created in 1959 but has struggled amid the high costs of connecting isolated rural households to the grid and the scarcity of government loans.

“Our initial hope has been answered in that utilities are answering the call to send crews here to the Navajo Nation,” Becenti said.