The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its award of $750,000 to the tribe Tuesday, along with millions of other dollars being spent to stabilize and reduce energy costs for residents of remote rural areas where the current cost of producing electricity is extremely high, according to a press release.
For the Yurok Tribe, the funding will go toward completing a project improving the quality of life for Yurok Reservation residents. Over the past six years, the tribe has completed 14 miles of line through rugged terrain of the reservation that will bring electricity service to homes, schools, and community facilities on the remote reservation for the first time, according to the USDA.
”We are very excited to begin this project; it seems almost inconceivable that in this day and age we have residents in our community that have been denied access to the very basic utilities that the rest of the community has taken for granted,” Planning Director Peggy O'Neill said in an e-mail to the Times-Standard. “We look forward to the day when our entire community has electricity and telephone service.”
O'Neill said the installation of the new Lake Prairie Road utility grid will allow the tribe to improve water quality and delivery standards for the Weitchpec water system and will allow residents living in the Lake Prairie area to hook into the PG&E power grid system to power their homes. The Weitchpec system is currently a gravity-fed system.
”The installation of the utility grid will allow the Yurok Tribe and the residents of Lake Prairie Road to explore alternative energy resources, which may allow the residents to feed back power generated by their alternative systems while at the same time maintaining a consistent and steady source of power,” she wrote.
The program is administered by the USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service. Recipients use funds to improve energy generation, transmission or distribution facilities that serve communities where the average residential cost for home energy exceeds 275 percent of the national average. Grants are available to individuals, businesses, nonprofit entities, states, local governments and federally recognized Indian tribes.
”These grants will help home and business owners offset rising energy costs by financing energy efficiency and power generation improvements to deliver energy in a more cost-effective and environmentally appropriate way,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release.
The funding totals more than $12 million for tribes throughout the country and are meant for constructing renewable energy projects. These funds may not be used to pay utility bills, purchase fuel, or be used for the sole benefit of the applicant, the release said.
Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532