Cherokee Nation seeks funding for hydro project's next phase

MULDROW, Okla. 1/30/12 (PennWell) -- A unanimous decision by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council will allow the tribe to move forward with its proposal to construct a US$144 million hydroelectric powerhouse at the W.D. Mayo Lock and Dam.

The council's vote authorizes Cherokee Nation Businesses to apply for more than $1 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of the Interior, which would be used to fund the fifth step in the project's development.

The dam, on the Arkansas River, is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Interior's grant would allow engineers to build a model necessary for the Corps to approve construction plans. Additionally, Phase V includes allocations for pre-construction and development, permits, environmental reviews, power purchase agreements, transmission and interconnection.

The hydropower plant will be owned by the Cherokee Nation, which holds the exclusive building rights to the Arkansas riverbed.

Plant capacity has not been announced. A tribal council source says the powerhouse is being designed with a 100-year service life and a completion date of 2015.

The project was originally authorized by Congress in 1986, but tabled until 2009 when the Department of the Interior, Energy and Minerals Developmetn Program (DOI-EMDP) funded Phase I. The first phase included a $130,000 feasibility study with recommendations to continue the development.

Phase II was a 2010 $150,000 continuation of the feasibility study and pre-development study.

DOI-EMDP also funded Phase III, which included mapping, geotechnical engineering, generator and powerhouse equipment specifications and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval at a cost of $1.67 million.

Phase IV was executed in 2012 for $550,000 and provided the Corps with a detailed powerhouse model study and a moveable bed model study.

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