La Paz County’s economic challenges were highlighted on Capitol Hill Wednesday when Supervisor D.L. Wilson testified on the County’s behalf.
Wilson testified to the United States House Committee on Natural Resources on a bill that would convey over 8000 acres of unused federal land to the County for large-scale economic development.
H.R. 2630 was introduced by Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar. If passed through the House and Senate and signed by the President, the bill will authorize the Secretary of the Interior to transfer around 8000 acres of land next to Interstate 10 in a rural eastern part of the county, which the County can utilize with private partners for renewable energy development.
The site is located southeast of the intersection of Hovatter Road and I-10 and is reportedly relatively flat, unused, far from any residential areas, free of any listed or priority species and not considered an area of special environmental or cultural concern.
In February the County issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to renewable energy partners who would use the site for photovoltaic solar energy production in conjunction with new power infrastructure known as the Ten West Link, which is already in development in the same area. Several companies were pre-qualified to participate at the time.
La Paz County has experienced a recent financial crisis, due to extremely limited revenue potential because of a lack of tax base associated with having such little taxable land. Federal, state and tribal land together make up the majority of the geography of La Paz County, leaving less than 6 percent of the land available to help keep the County’s operations afloat. The conveyance of the land named in Gosar’s new bill would give the County a vital new stream of revenue.
Wilson told the Committee the plan is to pay the federal government fair and market value for the land, and to develop it in phases over 20 years, attracting new industry, especially utility-scale solar energy.
“Our permanent resident population is just under 21,000,” Wilson said. “Our top priority is to attract economic diversification that has occurred elsewhere in Arizona.”
Mentioning the County’s aging population, the rate of unemployment and the need for local services, Wilson told the Committee, “the County needs economic diversification to provide higher paying jobs and a tax base to allow us to provide services to our vulnerable populations.”