Tom Yersak, 2009, Mechanical Engineering

I worked for the Navajo Hopi Land Commission Office with two Navajo Princeton Alums: Roman Bitsuie ’79 and Larry Nez ’81. NHLCO is charged with acquiring and developing “New Lands” for the benefit of Navajo relocatees affected by land disputes. The executive director of the NHLCO, Roman Bitsuie, is interested in developing large-scale solar projects on the New Lands to create new jobs and revenue for the Navajo Nation. With a 50% unemployment rate on the reservation, jobs and funds for assistance are the most valuable benefits the NHLCO can provide relocatees. Such projects are also very popular on the Reservation given the negative environmental impacts of several coal strip mines and power plants in the surrounding area.

Everyday I was exposed to the issues involved with getting large-scale renewable energy projects off the ground. My internship focused mainly on the initial research for a land survey and an environmental impact statement (EIS) needed for approval of any large-scale construction project. I was also involved in the day-to-day operations of the office.