Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

LADWP Line Crews Complete Navajo Nation Mutual Aid Training Exercise

Electric line crews from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) recently completed work on the Navajo Nation for a mutual aid training exercise that included extending electricity to Navajo homes.

More than 40 LADWP crew members volunteered to travel to the Navajo Nation to train in challenging conditions, such as adverse weather and isolated locations where dirt roads are the only access. The training exercise ended after 41 days and resulted in 80 homes being connected to the electric grid before the Christmas holiday.

“LADWP teamed up with the [Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA)] for this Mutual Aid Training exercise and the benefits far exceeded our expectations,” said Brian Wilbur, Senior Assistant General Manager of Power System Construction, Maintenance, & Operations, at LADWP. “In this simulation we were able to deploy vehicles, personnel, and equipment to a remote location to perform restoration and infrastructure work over rugged terrain in harsh conditions. The challenges, pitfalls, and victories of this complete deployment is something we have not been able to examine when we do our typical tabletop training simulations,” he said in a statement.

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Photo courtesy of NTUA

“Everyone from our executive leadership to our transmission and distribution crews were involved including our Office of Emergency Management, Fleet personnel, Procurement, and Communication groups.”

The combined crews worked and trained 10-hours a day to finish projects in 28 communities located across the Navajo Nation. The most extensive project, which extended over nine miles, was the Chilchinbeto community powerline project. Once the crews completed their work, 20 Navajo homes were powered up. It had been a project that was more than 10 years in the making, following years of acquiring rights of way and securing the land use permits.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez stopped by Chilchinbeto to personally thank LADWP crew members for volunteering to be part of the training project.

As the Chilchinbeto project was underway, the community watched daily as the power line was being built. Some residents drove by the powerline route daily to measure its progress. The project was completed in 15 days after which the community leaders and residents cooked and hosted a “thank-you” meal for the LADWP crew members.

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Photo courtesy of NTUA

"With heartfelt tears, family members told LADWP crews this was the best Christmas present they could ever receive," said Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) General Manager Walter Haase. "We are very happy this mutual aid training exercise was a success. LADWP completed its training and families are now enjoying the benefits of electricity. We are thankful that LADWP chose the Navajo Nation as the location for its rural mutual-aid field training exercise. We hope this is the first of future partnership projects."

Planning Is Underway For Project That Will Bring Power To Navajo Nation Residents

Meanwhile, planning for Light Up Navajo III, which will connect Navajo Nation families to the power grid, is underway. Public power utilities are encouraged to consider participating in Light Up Navajo III, which will start in the spring of this year.

The American Public Power Association (APPA) is working with NTUA, based in Fort Defiance, Ariz., to help volunteers continue to bring electricity to families in need.

Light Up Navajo III is scheduled to take place from April through June of 2022.

Interested public power utilities should contact [email protected] for more information on this important event.