U.S. awards hydro project funding to four Indian tribes

Kerr Dam

The federal Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development has awarded $1.9 million to four Indian tribes for hydroelectric projects, including acquisition of 194-MW Kerr Dam in Montana.

The funding was awarded Oct. 2 as part of $9.4 million to 46 tribal agencies to assist in developing energy and mineral resources. The grants were awarded under the Energy and Mineral Development Program administered by the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, a division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary- Indian Affairs.

Projects funded are for renewable energy sources including hydropower, geothermal, biomass, solar, wind and plastics-to-energy projects that are to provide clean low-cost power to tribal members and encourage business on tribal lands.

Salish & Kootenai prepare to acquire 194-MW Kerr Dam

The largest amount, $1.2 million, goes to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation to help them acquire critical expertise and infrastructure necessary for the final stages to acquire and operate the 194-MW Kerr Dam hydroelectric project on the Flathead River in Montana.

Kerr Dam is among 11 hydroelectric plants being sold by PPL Montana to NorthWestern Energy. Terms of that sale confirm commitments to proceed with the transfer of Kerr Dam to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes under provisions of the project's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission hydropower license (No. 5).

When the tribes, operating as Energy Keepers Inc., acquire the project in 2015, they will become the first tribes in the nation to own and operate a major hydroelectric project. The tribes are attempting to reacquire, manage and protect Flathead Reservation resources taken by U.S. government policies in the 19th century.

The federal funding is to help the tribes in areas of facility cost, energy organization, corporate development, electricity market forecasting, power marketing, risk management and tolerance, resource balancing and hydro plant operation and maintenance.

Pyramid Lake Paiutes eye hydro at Marble Bluff, Numana dams

The program also awarded $325,000 to the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in Nevada to help the tribe assess the hydroelectric potential of Marble Bluff Dam and Numana Dam on the reservation. The funding also is to help assess run-of-river applications for an irrigation system and small hydropower on perennial streams to offset high electricity costs for fish hatcheries.

The program awarded $189,080 to the Pueblo of Cochiti in New Mexico to study the financial and technical feasibility of producing hydroelectric power at Cochiti Dam on the Rio Grande in New Mexico to provide income for the tribe. It would be the first study of its kind at Cochiti Pueblo since the dam was completed in 1975.

The program awarded $140,000 to the Metlakatla Indian Community in Alaska to evaluate the feasibility of replacing three 1.2-MW turbine-generators at Metlakatla Power & Light's 3.5-MW Purple Lake hydroelectric project on Annete Island in southeastern Alaska. The project originally was built in 1956 and needs system updates. Power generated is used by residents and businesses of Metlakatla.

Under requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Bureau of Reclamation and Corps of Engineers studied 871 federal water resource facilities for possible hydropower development, including 653 sites under the jurisdiction of Reclamation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and 218 sites under the jurisdiction of the Corps.

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