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Moapa Paiutes Go Solar, Coal Plant To Close in 2017

STEPHENS WASHINGTON BUREAU
March 27 2014

WASHINGTON — Sen. Harry Reid confirmed Wednesday he is preparing a bill to expand the reservation of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians north of Las Vegas.

Paiutes celebrates switch to solar energyReid said the bill would add 25,000 acres to a reservation now at 75,000 acres. He announced his plans to the tribe at a groundbreaking Friday for the 250-megawatt Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, the first utility-scale solar plant to be built on Native American land.

The tribal council was in budget meetings on Wednesday and could not provide anyone to comment on the proposal, according to an administrator. The tribe consists of 329 people, 200 of which live on the reservation.

Reid had not yet drawn up a map of the proposed expansion, which presumably would involve land controlled by the federal Bureau of Land Management. It was not set when the bill would be introduced, according to Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman,
Reid said Wednesday the Moapa Band of Paiutes “deserve more.”

“Here’s my thinking,” he said. “In 1873, nine years after we became a state, Congress gave them two and a half million acres. Nine years later they took away everything except a thousand acres.” The tribe’s original reservation included much of what today is Moapa Valley, Bunkerville, Logandale, Glendale, Overton and Gold Butte.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter restored 75,000 acres, roughly 117 square miles. But Reid said the reservation lands “are interspersed with all kinds of rights of way from power lines.”

Reid has held up the tribe as an ally in his effort to increase Nevada’s role in solar and other renewable energy. The Moapa Southern Paiute Solar Project, owned by a subsidiary of First Solar Electric, is expected to be operational by the end of 2015. The generator has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement to deliver solar energy to the city of Los Angeles.

Previously, Reid had backed tribal leaders pressing for the shutdown of the Reid Gardner Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant at the edge of the reservation where pollution from the plant and coal ash landfills were blamed for health problems among the Paiutes.

NVEnergy, the plant owner, has announced it will close three of its four units this year, and shutter the plant entirely by 2017, six years earlier than previously scheduled.

By expanding the Moapa Paiute reservation, “maybe we will get some more renewable energy,” Reid said.

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