Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Commander Col. Andrew Baker signed a project partnership agreement during a ceremony Nov. 9 at the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona.
During the event, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor commemorated the agreement, which initiates construction of the solar-over-canal project, phase I of the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project Renewal Energy Pilot Project. “This project will be the first solar-over-canal project constructed in the U.S.,” said Baker during the event. “This community will be the first to implement this technology, resulting in significant reduction in evaporative water loss, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated by electrical power production.”
Construction of the project includes solar panels placed over a portion of the community’s canal to conserve water and generate renewable energy for tribal irrigation facilities.
“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,” Lewis said.
According to a written statement by the Gila River Indian Community, 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 U.S. Congress.
“I want to personally thank Assistant Secretary Connor for his vision and steadfast support for this innovative project,” Lewis said. “Our work with the assistant secretary dates back decades, and the community deeply appreciates him and his support.”
The estimated cost of phase I of the project is $6.7 million. It is expected to produce about 1,000 kilowatts of renewable energy to offset energy needs and costs for tribal farmers.
“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,” Connor said in a written statement.
Phase I will cover about 1,000 feet of canal with the goal of expanding the project to include additional miles of the community’s irrigation system, which is one of the most comprehensive irrigation systems in the Arizona.
This is the first Los Angeles District Tribal Partnership Program project to reach active construction.