Beginning with an initial feasibility study in 2007, the need for Hualapai to establish Tribal Utility Authority has been discussed at several public meetings and included in least two formal plans, the draft Master Plan for the Hualapai Reservation and the Strategic Energy Launch Plan adopted by Tribal Council in 2012. The latter was facilitated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
In 2014 at a special meeting held on June 19, 2014, Council directed the Planning Department and the Public Works Department to proceed with the preparation of a draft Tribal Utility Authority Ordinance. The draft ordinance was prepared in association with the law firm of Fennemore Craig, PLC, to create a full service Hualapai Tribal Utility Authority to serve Grand Canyon West. Establishing a Tribal Utility Authority was the key pre-requisite in applying for a multi-million USDA/Rural Utilities Service loan to build a power line that would bring utility power from the regional electric grid operated by UniSource Energy Services to Grand Canyon West.
The draft ordinance was completed in early July of 2014 and two public meetings were held with the first on July 30, 2014 and the second on August 21, 2014. Participants were concerned about the training and recruitment of qualified board members. All attendees supported the formation of a Tribal Utility Authority.
The HTUA was established as an institution of Tribal government by Tribal Council at their meeting on September 24, 2014 (Reso No. 63-2014). The five members of the Hualapai Tribal Utility Authority board were appointed by Council in November of 2014 after a 30-day application and review period. Board members must have certain qualifications as follows: 1) Three members of the Board shall be members of the Community who have sufficient education, experience, and sound judgment to learn basic utility business practices and procedures. 2) The remaining two members of the Board may be members or non-members of the Community and shall have not less than ten years’ experience in business management of substantial character and at least one of such members shall have had substantial experience in the management and operation of an electric utility, and 3) No employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, employee of the HTUA or member of the Tribal Council shall be a member of the Board(Section 202 of HTUA Ordinance).
As noted in Section 107.b.3 of the Ordinance, the HTUA is authorized “to acquire, construct, operate, maintain, promote, and expand electric power service, water service, and sewage service at GCW and on such other locations within the Hualapai Reservation and on other Tribal lands under the jurisdiction of the Hualapai Tribe as the Tribal Council may deem appropriate.” The HTUA board is delegated full authority and responsibility for the management and operation of HTUA consistent with this Ordinance (Section 203). The HTUA will hire a general manager for the day-to-day operations. In addition, the Ordinance gives the HTUA the authority to enter into contracts and take on debt (Section 203.b).
Section 208 (Bonds and Notes for Support of the Utility) and 209 (Enforceability of Contracts) of the Ordinance grants a limited waiver of sovereign immunity which will allow future bond and lien holders as well as contractors legal recourse in Tribal Court/federal court to make their claims for payment. The limited waiver of sovereign immunity shall not be construed to waive any immunity of the Hualapai Tribe, or to extend any liability to any assets, revenues, or incomes of the Hualapai Tribe, other than those of HTUA.