Work Continues to Bring Electricity to the Navajo Nation


For the second year in a row, two linemen from Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative (CWEC) traveled to the Navajo Nation in Arizona to take part in the Light Up Navajo Project. Mack Yarbrough and Josh Wick spent a week working to bring electricity to residents of the Navajo Nation.

CWEC linemen Mack Yarbrough (far left) and Josh Wick (far right) with the homeowners who had electricity brought to their home via the Light Up Navajo Project.

Wick said he decided to participate in the Light Up Navajo Nation Project because he thought it would be a cool experience.

“Everyone around here has power who wants it,” Wick said. “It was weird to hear that people in America, who want power, still don’t have power.”

Yarbrough said it was a good opportunity to use his skills to help people.

During the week, Yarbrough and Wick worked with a lineman from Massachusetts and six linemen from two different electric utilities in Utah, as well as linemen from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. They were able to complete one project from start to finish during the first part of the week.

The project that was completed from start to finish was a 1.75-mile stretch in which a new power line was installed to bring electricity to a single residence. In all, 29 primary poles were set, along with one secondary pole.

“We dug all the holes, set the poles, and strung in the wire,” Wick said. “And did their service wire too. I think they said most of the time they just have crews come in and set poles and then they’ll have another crew, in another week, string the wire. But, because this first one was so long, that’s why they had so many people out there too. That way we could have a bunch of different people working on different things and do that from start to finish.”

While spending a week working on the Light Up Navajo Project, CWEC linemen Mack Yarbrough and Josh Wick climbed a lot of power poles.

Yarbrough and Wick said the homeowners were grateful for the work the crews did to bring electricity to their home.

“They were out there while we were working on it, so they’d come by and talk to us,” Wick said.

The couple invited the crews into their home, and cooked them a meal that included Navajo tacos. They also shared the history of their family and the property.

“She said her parents built the house in the 1960s,” Wick said.

He added that the homeowners said they had wanted to be part of the Light Up Navajo Project, but they were usually told that the 1.75-mile distance was too far.

“Normally, they were keeping them (projects) to less than a mile,” Wick said. “I think they kept getting pushed back because it was so long.”

After completing that project, Yarbrough and Wick worked on a project that, when completed, will have 5.5 miles of power lines installed to bring electricity to one person. That will be the longest line extension that is part of the Light Up Navajo Project.

Wick operates a pressure digger. Most of the pole holes required a pressure digger because of rock in the area.

“A crew had already been there before us setting poles. Then we came in and set more,” Yarbrough said.

He said he was surprised that only one person would benefit from that line extension.

“It provoked a lot of thought on that, and that’s kind of the point as to why we were there, because nobody else was going to do this,” Yarbrough said.

Wick said he is glad that he helped on the project.

“It’s something I’ll remember forever,” Wick said. “It’s good to know I helped out, even though we only turned electricity on for one family. Without the small amount of time we spent there, they would have been waiting for more years to actually get electricity.”

Yarbrough, who traveled to Guatemala in 2019 to help bring electricity to residents there, said it’s “the right thing to do” to help people.

“If we can make it work around home and we can make the slight sacrifice and slight inconvenience, and actually help people with something, that’s cool,” Yarbrough said.