Gila River Indian Community Signs Historic Agreement for Solar-Over-Canal Project
Great day celebrating innovation & climate resiliency driven by Tribal leadership as we signed a historic partnering agreement between @GRIC_Official & @LADistrictUSACE. GRIC is first to place solar panels over irrigation canals, producing renewable energy while conserving water. https://t.co/rgz68u2yR1 pic.twitter.com/ei7g2G1wBu
— Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (@ASACivilWorks) November 9, 2023
On Thursday, Nov. 9, Council leaders of the Gila River Indian Community, led by Governor Stephen Roe Lewis, signed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work on a solar-covered canal pilot project on the Tribe’s Level Top Canal.
The historic agreement was approved by the GRIC Council on November 1.
The agreement starts the first phase of the solar-over-canal project and will involve construction of solar panels over a portion of the Community’s 1-10 Level Top canal to conserve water and generate renewable energy for tribal irrigation facilities.
This historic agreement represents the first solar-over-canal project of its kind in the United States to initiate construction. The cost of Phase I of the solar-covered canal project is estimated to be $6.744 million, and it is expected to produce approximately 1 MW of renewable energy to offset energy needs and costs for tribal farmers.
With the execution of this historic agreement, the Army Corps will now begin the actual construction phase of the project, with completion expected in 2025.
In his remarks during the event, Governor Lewis offered his appreciation to Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works for his partnership in this project.
“I want to personally thank Assistant Secretary Connor for his vision and steadfast support for this innovative project. Our work with the Assistant Secretary dates back decades and the Community deeply appreciates him and his support.”
ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke attended the signing ceremony.
“This is the type of creative thinking that can help move all of us toward a more sustainable future,” said Director Buschatzke.
“Leveraging existing infrastructure such as the Level Top Canal to help provide sustainable, dependable energy – and to do so as part of cooperative partnership like this one – constitutes a win all around.”
Following remarks from Governor Lewis and Assistant Secretary Connor, the parties signed the agreement to begin construction of the project, which is designed to generate clean, renewable energy as well as help reduce evaporation.
A “Project Partnership Agreement,” or PPA, is a legally binding agreement between the federal government and a non-Federal sponsor such as state or municipal governments, or, as in this instance, a Native American Tribe. The projects historically involve construction of a water resources project.
The PPA describes the project and the responsibilities of the federal government and the non-federal sponsor in the cost sharing and execution of work.