DULCE, N.M. — The Jicarilla Apache Nation has taken control of their electrical needs on their nation.
In April, the tribe executed the final parts of an agreement that started on May 9 establishing the Jicarilla Power Authority and formalizing an agreement with the Public Service Company of New Mexico to supply the reservation with electricity.
"This has been a long time coming," said tribal president Ty Vicenti, in a press release.
Councilman Leon Reval, Jicarilla Apache councilman, said the creation of a new utility is a step forward for the tribe.
"It means self determination," he said in a phone interview.
The new tribal power authority serves about 1,300 customers inside the Jicarilla Apache nation boundaries, and eight families in areas near the reservation.
As part of establishing the new utility, the tribe acquired about half of the Northern Rio Arriba Electric Cooperative, the company that until recently provide the tribe with electricity.
Reval said the transaction cost the tribe nearly $6 million but said Jicarilla Apache tribal members complained of brownouts and blackouts for several years.
"The government said 'enough is enough,'" he added.
In late 2011 the tribe offered to acquire Northern Rio Arriba's lines and poles that served customers in Dulce. Almost a year later, the tribe filed a lawsuit in tribal court asking the tribal court to grant ownership of the co-op's system to the Nation for a fair price.
The tribe's suit caused the co-op to file another lawsuit in U.S. District Court. The lawsuits were resolved but the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement remain confidential, according to a press release.
The new agreement enabled the tribe to sell a switchyard to PNM for $9 million and allows it to receive electricity from the company.
Reval said that in the event of an emergency, the tribe's utility can still connect to Northern Rio Arriba.
He noted that since the tribe's new utility is a program under the tribal government, tribal members are expected to pay their bills to the tribe.
"We showed our pride in taking on this endeavor," he said.