WELCH, Minn., June 8, 2016 – Prairie Island Indian Community has submitted an application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to have a 112-acre parcel of land in West Lakeland Township placed into federal trust. The Minnesota Statute 216B.1645, which allowed for the increased storage of nuclear waste at the Prairie Island Nuclear Power Generating Plant, operated by Xcel Energy, authorizes Prairie Island Indian Community to purchase up to 1,500 acres of land within a 50-mile radius of the reservation to be taken into trust. The 2003 law is in recognition of the failed state and federal policies around nuclear power and the storage of nuclear waste near the Prairie Island Indian Community reservation.
Petitioning to move land into trust is a common motion for federally recognized tribes and can be essential for self-sufficiency and future growth. As authorized under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, submitting a fee-to-trust application is the first step in transferring the title of the land into federal government trust on behalf of a federally recognized tribe. More than 50 million acres are held in trust by the United States for various Native American tribes and individuals. Federal trust lands are protected from sale, free from county taxation and are within tribal jurisdiction. Additionally, trust land can be within Native American reservations or off-reservation.
“The Minnesota Legislature granted our Tribe authorization to purchase land within a 50-mile radius of our reservation and have it placed into trust by the federal government after decades of unresolved nuclear waste policy,” said Tribal Council President Shelley Buck. “With no nuclear waste storage solution in sight, we live and operate our businesses under a constant threat, 600 yards away from “temporary” waste storage casks. We must prepare for the likelihood that nuclear waste will never leave our ancestral homeland.”
Prairie Island Indian Community’s reservation is located 30 miles southeast of the Twin Cities in Goodhue County and includes approximately 3,100 acres of land held in trust by the United States for the benefit of the Community. The reservation borders the Prairie Island Nuclear Generation Plant and waste storage facility, and sits on the flood plains of the Mississippi River making much of the Tribe’s land unusable for housing or economic development.
The recently purchased West Lakeland Township property is located on the northeast corner of Interstate 94 and Manning Avenue. While the Tribal Council is petitioning the land into trust there are no immediate plans for development on the parcel which is currently zoned for agricultural use. Tribal Council has been meeting with state and local elected officials this week notifying them of the application and stating their commitment to building good relationships and engaging with local leaders to bring value to the community. The Community’s property in West Lakeland is the second parcel of land to be the subject of a trust transfer application, per the 2003 statute.
On June 3, 2016, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by the Prairie Island Indian Community, several states led by New York, and several environmental advocacy groups led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, to overturn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “Continued Storage Rule,” a regulation allowing long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel at power plants for up to 60 years after the plant is shut down. Because of this ruling, millions of pounds of nuclear waste will be allowed to remain on Prairie Island indefinitely.
“We have faced unique growth challenges at our reservation and deserve to have a safe and permanent homeland with adequate usable land for our Community to expand,” said Buck. “With the recent Appeals Court ruling in favor of long-term, on-site storage, Prairie Island is looking at living with this nuclear waste for several more generations. We don’t know the risks of long-term, on-site nuclear waste storage so purchasing and placing this property into trust is not only an investment in the future of our Tribe, it helps fulfill our obligation to provide safe land for future generations.”
About the Prairie Island Indian Community
The Prairie Island Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian Nation, is located in southeastern Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 30 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Twin nuclear reactors and 39 large steel nuclear waste storage casks sit just 600 yards from Prairie Island tribal homes. A total of 98 casks could be stranded on Prairie Island indefinitely unless the federal government fulfills its commitment to create a permanent storage solution. The only evacuation route off the Prairie Island is frequently blocked by passing trains. The Tribe has been pushing for the removal of the nuclear waste since 1994 when Xcel Energy was first allowed to store the waste near its reservation. On the web: www.prairieisland.org.