The Crow Tribe has received a $655,000 grant for its Yellowtail hydropower project, one of 19 tribes netting 21 grants totaling $3.2 million under the federal Energy and Mineral Development Program Awards, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Friday March 14.
Mineral grant awards totaling $505,420 went to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Hualapai Tribe, Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, Nez Perce Tribe, Spirit Lake Tribe and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Department of the Interior said.
The Pueblo of Jemez, Jicarilla Apache Nation and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe collectively received $765,234 for oil, gas and geothermal projects.
For renewables, including the Crow Tribe’s grant, a total of $1.9 million went to the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Ho-Chunk Nation, Pueblo de Cochiti, Shoshone Bannock Tribes, the Tule River Tribe and Blue Lake Rancheria, which got two grants.
“The Crow Nation is working to provide reliable, low-cost, renewable power to tribal members, and this grant will help make that vision a reality,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who made the announcement while on a tour of the Crow Reservation. Jewell also chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs. “These grants are about strengthening self-determination and self-governance by enabling tribal nations to evaluate and promote their energy and mineral assets, negotiate the best agreements with partners or investors and develop these resources for the social and economic benefit of their communities.”
The awards were part of President Barack Obama’s pledge to help leaders in Indian country to strengthen their tribal economies and communities. The Crow project in particular is expected to supply low-cost, clean power to about 3,000 homes across the region, according to the Billings Gazette. This grant will help the tribe finish the technical, environmental, engineering and economic analyses needed for the 8 to 12 megawatt hydroelectric project at the Yellowtail Afterbay Dam on the Crow Reservation, the Interior statement said. Once that’s done the tribe can solicit power purchase agreements as well as construction financing. The hope is that in addition to fueling homes, the added capacity will attract more business to the tribe’s lands.
The project is also expected to be something of an environmental boon, improving the Big Horn River fishery downstream from the project by reducing excessive nitrogen and oxygen levels, Interior said. It all falls under the Crow Tribe Water Settlement Act, introduced by Senator Jon Tester, D-Montana, in 2009, which authorized the tribe to develop hydropower at the dam. It was signed by Obama in 2010.
RELATED: A Historic Day for Crow Water Rights
“All Montanans need affordable energy to power their homes, schools and businesses, and Crow Nation is using the mighty Bighorn River to provide that energy for themselves and folks across the region,” said Tester, who recently took the reigns as Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, in the Interior Department statement. “Using all of Montana’s energy resources will strengthen our economy, create jobs and increase our energy security.”