It was Eunice Tso’s wonder of the geology of the landscape in her hometown of LeChee that first drew her to study geology at Northern Arizona University and eventually led to her opening her own firm, ETD, Inc., 20 years ago.
ETD helps companies and government entities looking to build on the Navajo Nation meet federal and local environmental requirements.
“I would drive past all of these geological formations on my way to class at NAU and I would wonder, 'how did that come to be? How did that get there?'” she said.
Her brother encouraged her to take a geology class during her first year at NAU and she fell in love with the subject. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked for the Navajo Abandoned Mine Line Reclamation program, where she learned about the various federal and Navajo environmental regulations governing construction.
Tso later returned to NAU to earn a master’s degree in geology with an emphasis in environmental geology. She then started ETD, Inc. Tso mainly focuses on projects that are being built or planned on the Navajo Nation.
“I built this out of a need I saw on the nation,” she said. “All developers on the Navajo Nation have to go through some sort of environmental review.”
Road improvements made by the Navajo government, new buildings, new water lines or other infrastructure all require environmental review, she said. Most developers on the Nation not only have to meet federal environmental regulations but also requirements by the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency.
These requirements can be complex, Tso said. They can include analysis for soil, landscape, endangered species, engineering and cultural resources. Outreach to the public about the project and the impact it might have on the environment and cultural resources is also often required. And if archaeological artifacts are found, a developer may have preserve and move them to a safe location.
ETD is designed to handle all of those complexities for private companies working on a project on the Nation’s land or for tribal enterprises, she said.
For example, ETD worked with the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise to help build the Twin Arrows Casino. That project required the negotiations between several different land owners. It also involved the identification, recording and mitigation of several archaeological sites, which can be very expensive, she said.
Tso also works with individual chapters within the Navajo Nation to help them with land use plans, siting new senior or youth centers or community centers. Chapters are similar to counties, but they don’t have as much political power, she said. For example, chapters don’t have the same control over finances and the construction of infrastructure that Arizona counties have. They have to ask for the funding for a new community center or paving for a road from the Navajo Nation.
Because of this, many of the chapters don’t have the funds or the knowledge to do the necessary environmental assessments for a new community center or a land use plan or how to navigate the Navajo Nation’s procurement process to apply for the funding for these projects. Tso has helped a number of chapters navigate the procurement process, follow the environmental regulations and plan for the future of their community.
She’s also helped individuals apply for loans to build their own home. The Navajo people lease their land from the Nation, which makes it hard for them to get a bank loan to build a new home or repair their existing home. A new loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allows them to get a bank loan or a mortgage for their home.
The team at ETD includes environmental scientist Kristin Miller and outreach specialist Adrian Dotson. Miller specializes in helping to create environmental assessments, land use plans and creating digital maps.
Dotson helps with the communications, marketing, public outreach and event planning for the various clients ETD has. ETD can do public notices, newsletters, fact sheets, surveys and press releases for its clients, as well as websites and social media.