Gila River Indian Community Signs Historic Agreement for Solar-Over-Canal Project
Communications & Public Affairs Office
Sacaton, AZ - On Thursday, Nov. 9, the Gila River Indian Community and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a Project Partnership Agreement to begin construction on Phase I of the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project Renewal Energy Pilot Project. This agreement starts the first phase of the solar-over-canal project within the Community 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. The overall project is the result of a broad effort by the Biden Administration to support new, innovative solutions to the drought crisis threatening the Colorado River Basin, with support from the Bureau of Reclamation and Congress as well.
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. Funding for this project comes from the federal-tribal partnership, with support for the tribal portion of the cost being provided by the Bureau of Reclamation in the form of a grant for $517,000, which the Community used to produce the design that will be used to construct the project. 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.
The first phase of this pilot project will cover approximately 1,000 feet of canal and will show the feasibility of the concept with the goal of expanding the solar-over-canal project to include additional miles of the Community’s irrigation system which is one of the most comprehensive irrigation systems in the State. The Community has already begun feasibility and design efforts for Phase Il of its overall plan for the project, with funding being provided in part by the Bonneville Environmental Fund, once again demonstrating the broad support for this innovative approach to addressing the drought crisis, while attacking the root cause of the crisis with renewable energy to move toward a new “Blue-Green Tribal Agricultural Economy.” Funding for Phase II of this project is expected from the Bureau of Reclamation, which is implementing a grant program established by Congress for a pilot program to further develop this innovative technology.
In his remarks during the event, Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis offered his appreciation to Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works for his partnership in this project and for understanding the impacts of this project within the Community and throughout the Basin. Gov. Lewis stated, “This first pilot will break new ground and further the Community’s role as stewards of our shudag (water) and in keeping with the Community’s tradition of bringing innovation to irrigation systems throughout their lands. “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.” Gov. Lewis said.
The Community expects this first phase of the project to be completed in 2025 and hopes to launch the second phase as soon as December of this year.