TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council at its March 11 meeting approved two wind energy-related leases to Chilocco Wind Farm LLC for the evaluation and possible development of a wind farm on Cherokee Nation-owned lands in central Oklahoma.
If developed, the wind farm would be located on lands commonly referred to as Chilocco. Chilocco is a former federal Indian boarding school that operated between 1884 and 1980 near present-day Newkirk.
According to a report given earlier that day to the council’s Resource Committee, a wind energy evaluation lease allows CWF to lease 1,334 acres in fee land and 1,281 acres in trust land of the tribe’s Chilocco property for evaluating wind energy potential. The lease requires a limited waiver of sovereignty by the tribe for the project’s financial underwriting and gives CWF the option to execute a wind resource lease that would give CWF the rights to develop the wind farm.
The report states the project calls for 90 1.7 megawatt wind turbines to be installed for a potential 153 total megawatts. One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.
Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the council passed a similar resolution in December but the March resolution changes the name of the entity involved from Chilocco Wind Park LLC to CWF. Both CWP and CWF are subsidiaries of PNE Wind USA. He added that the new resolution “substantially expands the opportunity for Cherokee Nation to realize money off this project for services.”
CN Communications Director Amanda Clinton said estimated costs and payments to the tribe would be only speculation at this time.
“The resolution passed at the March Tribal Council meeting allows us to move forward in exploring this opportunity,” she said. “Further decisions regarding this project will be made at upcoming council meetings, and we look forward to sharing those developments.”
However, according to the Resource Committee report, the tribe could potentially earn $9.2 million over a 20-year period and $22.1 million over a 40-year period.
Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts said she supports alternative energy, but the new resolution was “dropped” in councilors’ laps at the Resources Committee meeting earlier in the day.
“They’ve added a layer of additional business. Everything was dropped on our desk at the last committee meeting, in fact in the last hour or two. We were given no warning. They amended the agenda. We didn’t even know it was an agenda item,” she said. “I’ve had no opportunity to digest this. I don’t understand what this means and what it might cost the Cherokee people, so I can’t support pushing it on through given that we have not had proper time to digest the additional business layer and change in the deal.”
Hoskin said the wind farm idea is something councilors have been aware of for months and not something they learned about “at the 11th hour.” He also said no agreements have been signed or approved and the resolutions do not authorize the expenditure of tribal funds.
“The resolutions passed on March 11 were small step towards realizing these goals, and the council will have plenty of opportunity to scrutinize the plans before any deals are done,” he said.
Hoskin said ultimately he expects the tribe to be a winner in terms of providing renewable energy, responsible stewardship of land and additional revenues for CN services to citizens.
“If the deal is completed, we expect Cherokee Nation to realize a great deal of money for the utilization of land which is currently underutilized,” he said. “As Cherokee Nation and CNB (Cherokee Nation Businesses) are not wind energy experts, it’s not at all surprising that we need to partner with third parties who can provide that expertise.”
According to the Resource Committee report, CNB sponsored the initial wind project, but high costs forced CNB to seek a developer that would lease the land and develop a wind farm. It states PNE Wind USA offered the best deal and a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2010 between PNE and CNB.
The report also states the project stalled in December and CNB asked Cimarron Power Ventures to review the project and offer opinions on the “viability of the transaction and the structure of the deal.”
Cimarron Power Ventures LLC’s registering agent is Walters Power International LLC. According to WPI’s website, former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters is the president of WPI.
The resolution passed 11-6 with Tribal Councilors Cowan Watts, Buel Anglen, Lee Keener, Dick Lay, Julia Coates and Meredith Frailey voting against the measure.
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