Council approves hydroelectric plant grant application
The W.D. Mayo site on the Arkansas riverbed in Sequoyah County. The hydroelectric plant is expected to be completed in 2015, GRAPHIC BY MARK DREADFULWATER
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The W.D. Mayo Hydroelectric Project on the Arkansas River entered its fifth phase after the Tribal Council unanimously authorized Cherokee Nation Businesses to apply for more than $1million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Interior.
If obtained, the grant would be used to conduct studies and assessments necessary at the W.D. Mayo site on the Arkansas riverbed in Sequoyah County. The hydroelectric plant, which is expected to be completed in 2015, would be Cherokee Nation-owned and operated and use the river’s current to generate electric power. That power would then be sold to area cities.
“This is legislation that’s going to increase the funding to the Cherokee Nation in the next 100 years, and it’s legislation that’s really going to help Sequoyah County. We’re in desperate need down there of jobs,” Tribal Councilor David Thornton said at the council’s Dec. 12 meeting.
Congress authorized the project in 1986, and the CN has exclusive rights to build on the riverbed.
Thornton said the plant would create 150 to 200 direct jobs during construction in an economically depressed area. Workers would be needed for the construction of the plant, roads to and from it, fences and barriers and power lines, as well as concrete batch plant operations and security. Indirect employment in Sequoyah County would include food sales, transportation and logistics expenditures, housing requirements and sales of raw materials.
The local economic benefit from the plant has been estimated at $532 million, Thornton said.
“We’re all really thrilled about this project that’s going to come to Sequoyah County, not just for us, but for the whole Cherokee Nation,” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright said.
She said she’s excited about the jobs that would come to Sequoyah County during the construction phase because the county has a high unemployment rate.
Fullbright said the project was first discussed in the 1970s, but was thought to be less lucrative at that time because not enough customers were available to buy the electric generated by the plant.
“Things have changed. I think this is going to be a great moneymaker for us,” she said.
Tribal Councilor Don Garvin said the CN would reap benefits from the plant for the next 100 years. “I’m excited about this project. That river runs every day. Outside my window I can hear that river.”
Thornton said when the facility is completed it would need up to 10 highly skilled workers to operate it. He added that the power generated and sold would annually bring in $10 million to $15 million in revenue for the CN after the cost of constructing the plant is paid off. It’s estimated it would cost $144 million to construct the plant. firstname.lastname@example.org • 918-207-3961