Wisconsin Native Americans granted funds for green projects


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Native American tribes in Wisconsin are receiving federal grants for renewable energy projects that tribe members say will help reduce costs and lead to energy independence.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Odanah received a nearly $1 million grant, while the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Crandon got a grant for more than $1.5 million. The grants, announced last month, will be used to install solar panels at tribal buildings.

The Wisconsin tribes are among 12 nationwide that received a total of 14 grants from the federal Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs worth a total of $16 million, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

"These projects will unleash sovereign Native American and Alaska Native energy development however each tribe believes is best for their community," U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Mark Menezes said in a statement.

The Bad River Band will use the money, in addition to about $1 million in cost sharing, to install solar panels at the health and wellness center located in Ashland, the wastewater treatment plant in New Odanah and the Chief Blackbird Center in Odanah.

The federal Department of Energy said projections show the tribe will save about $841,000 in energy spending over the next 25 years.

Dylan Jennings is a tribal council member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a public information officer for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. He said going green is one way the tribe is preparing for the future, noting that the tribes aren't against oil or coal.

"We firmly realize that we need to be doing our part in adapting to better and more efficient ways of living that are healthy for the environment," Jennings said.

Daniel Wiggins Jr., an air quality technician with the Natural Resource Department for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said the tribe's plan is to reduce current energy costs by 10% by 2025 and generate 10% of the tribe's electricity with renewable technology by that year.

The Forest County Potawatomi Community's grant will be used to install solar panels at eight tribal facilities in Milwaukee, on the tribe's reservation lands in Crandon and on its community center. Annual savings at the community center are expected to be more than $100,000 over 30 years.

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