PRESCOTT – On Friday, Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt was joined by Congressman Paul Gosar and other public and private representatives to announce the conveyance of approximately 5,900 acres of public lands to La Paz County in western Arizona. The county has executed an agreement with 174 Power Global to build a massive solar facility on 4,000 acres of the land, potentially producing up to 850 Megawatts of power, which would be the largest solar project in the nation.
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) May 23, 2020
La Paz County signed an agreement with 174 Power Global, a South Korean company, to build a solar energy facility on 4,000 acres, in March. According to the Parker Pioneer, at 850 megawatts, it will be the largest solar project in the nation. It’s estimated 800 to 1,000 construction jobs will be created, with the facility producing enough power for 300,000 homes.
“President Trump’s enactment of the Dingell Act represents the single largest public lands package in a decade.” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Senator McSally and Congressman Gosar played critical roles in its passage and ensured provisions vital to Arizona were incorporated for the benefit of the local community and economy.”
“I led the Senate effort last year to pass legislation to make this happen and continued to engage with the BLM to ensure the conveyance process was executed as expeditiously as possible,” said U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ). “It is great to see La Paz County will be able to move forward with plans to increase solar energy production. I applaud the hard work of the County Supervisors, the BLM and all the stakeholders involved in this innovative economic development effort.”
“This land exchange will bring new energy to La Paz County, not just new renewable energy generation but new economic energy in terms of jobs, construction and community growth. During these troubling times, it is these types of projects that will help bring us out of this economic downturn and give a brighter future to La Paz and all of Arizona,” said Congressman Paul Gosar (AZ-04). “I was happy to work with Secretary Bernhardt to make this a reality for my constituents.”
On March 12, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed into law S.47, the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in an Oval Office signing ceremony surrounded by a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The legislation was made up of more than 100 individual bills that were introduced by 50 Senators and several House members. Specifically, in the United States Senate, Senator McSally introduced bipartisan legislation in the form of S. 54, the La Paz County Land Conveyance Act of 2019, and in the House of Representatives, Congressman Paul Gosar introduced companion, bipartisan legislation in the form of H.R. 304.
The Department of the Interior (Department) had advocated for or worked with Members of Congress on many of the individual provisions that made up the package, including the requirement for the BLM to convey approximately 5,900 acres of lands to La Paz County with the intent of using the land for economic development and renewable electricity generation opportunities. Ultimately, La Paz County expects 800 to 1,000 construction jobs will be needed for the project with the facility possibly being able to generate enough electricity to power over 300,000 homes.
“Our vision is to attract new renewable solar development to this strategic location to diversify our local economy and create high paying jobs,” said La Paz County Supervisor Holly Irwin. “Less than 6% of the land within La Paz County is in private ownership. We are grateful to Representative Gosar, Senators McSally and Sinema, Secretary Bernhardt and Director Suazo for working with us to get this done. This land conveyance will increase the tax base, so our rural County can adequately meet the growing needs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
“The Colorado River Indian Tribes is proud to support this project and appreciates the partnership with La Paz County as it engages in meaningful economic development, while still protecting our sacred history tied to the region,” said Chairman Dennis Patch of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. “Now more than ever, Western Arizona needs sustainable jobs, so it is my hope that we can work with the BLM to replicate this process and add additional land to our reservation and the County for even more economic development opportunities.”
Following the passage of the Dingell Act, Secretary Bernhardt issued Secretary’s Order 3374 Implementation of Public Law 116-9, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. A task force at the Department was created to ensure all timelines laid out in the bipartisan public lands bill were met, and the Department continues to tick through these requirements on schedule for the American people.
Under the Dingell Act, the BLM must exclude any portions containing significant cultural, environmental, wildlife, or recreational resources. The La Paz County Land Conveyance ensures tribal cultural artifacts are protected by including several provisions to avoid disturbance. The BLM documented its analysis of potentially significant resources in an environmental assessment released December 13, 2019. No significant resources requiring exclusion were found, and the Decision Record was signed on December 30, 2019, clearing the way to convey the lands.
The Dingell Act includes multiple other provisions impacting public lands nationally – including land actions across the West, the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Every Kid Outdoors Program, and improvements to public land access.