The Kalispel Tribe of Indians is proud to announce it continues its cultural connection to the region’s rivers by establishing its own electric utility company to service its Airway Heights property. Kalispel Tribal Utilities (KTU) began officially providing electricity and natural gas to Tribal businesses on October 1, 2017, resulting in energy cost savings and expansion of economic development opportunities for the Tribe. Today’s signing ceremony is a public celebration of the key partnerships between the Tribe, BPA, Avista and Inland Power and Light.
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 paved the way for tribes across the country to form their own utility companies to serve tribal lands, provide employment, support conservation and resource development and improve utility infrastructure and service. For the past ten years, the Kalispel Tribe has been exploring this option and has recently signed an agreement to purchase wholesale hydroelectric power from the United States Department of Energy’s Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) starting in October 2017.
“The Kalispel Tribe has always relied upon the great rivers of the region to sustain our people and our culture,” says Kalispel Tribal Chairman Glen Nenema. “Our formation of a tribal utility and purchase of hydroelectric power generated at the dams on our rivers is a modern way to continue our ancient cultural connection to the rivers and to remain a protector and participant in all regional decisions affecting the Columbia River and its tributaries.”
The Tribe’s businesses located in Airway Heights have been served for many years by Inland Power and Light and Avista. Working in cooperation with those companies, the Tribe will continue working to acquire Inland Power and Light and Avista-owned facilities on tribal lands in Airway Heights and construct other needed facilities.
Several other tribes in the Pacific Northwest currently purchase wholesale power from BPA and have their own utility companies, including the Yakama Nation in Toppenish, WA and the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua in Roseburg, OR. Because KTU will not be regulated by the State of Washington, the Kalispel Tribe will have new flexibility in making its energy decisions. Northern Quest Resort & Casino, owned and operated by the Kalispel Tribe, is already outfitted with many energy-efficient features. The Tribe will continue to add renewable energy features and other enhancements to increase energy self-sufficiency on its Airway Heights property for current facilities and all future developments.