U.S. House votes to transfer land to La Paz County

C-SPAN: WATCH THE BILL ON THE HOUSE FLOOR HERE.

A big bill for La Paz County passed the U.S. House of Representatives Monday, with the support of several members of Congress and the Colorado River Indian Tribes. The bill, known as H.R. 2630, the ‘La Paz County Land Conveyance Act’, would transfer 8,800 acres of federal land to the County for commercial development, according to a statement from Congressman Paul Gosar, who championed the bill on Capitol Hill.

“I am thrilled to see the House pass this bipartisan jobs bill that embraces a true all-of-the-above energy strategy. This locally-driven solution will allow for future economic prosperity in a county where new opportunities are few and far between due to the abnormally small presence of private land. This legislation is good for the County and allows La Paz to generate new revenues in order to fund important services like education, transportation and law enforcement. H.R. 2630 is good for federal taxpayers and is projected to bring in at least six million dollars. Finally, the renewable solar energy generated as a result of this bill will assist with ensuring a balanced portfolio and will provide power to help meet the electricity demands of the West. I am grateful for the close collaboration among La Paz County officials, tribal governments, legislators on both sides of the aisle and other local stakeholders. I urge the Senate to pass this important legislation, that utilizes a bottom-up approach, in an expeditious manner.” – Congressman Paul Gosar

Speaking on KLPZ 1380am Tuesday morning, County District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor said that the bill “would change the face of La Paz County for decades to come,” because it would make the land available for commercial purposes which will contribute significantly to the County’s tax rolls.

Just 6 percent of La Paz County is privately owned, with a massive federal footprint over most of the region controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The problem for La Paz, the second-youngest county in the nation, is that it makes 94 percent of the land unavailable for uses that would generate tax revenue, severely crippling its ability to provide services for citizens comparable to most other jurisdictions.

“The Board of Supervisors wishes to thank Congressman Gosar, the bill’s cosponsors and other members of the delegation for their leadership to promote jobs and economic development in La Paz County. H.R. 2630 will help implement our vision to attract new industry, especially solar development to this strategic location to diversify our local economy, create quality jobs and increase the tax base so our rural County can adequately meet the growing needs of all our citizens.” – District 2 Supervisor Duce Minor

The idea behind the bill is to take 8,800 acres of BLM land next to I-10 in a remote, eastern part of the County and let La Paz County purchase it for development to include electricity generation. Utilities have been expanding renewable energy production in the last several years to meet the needs of a growing southwest.

The land is “right under the proposed path of the proposed Ten West Link,” Minor told Parker Live, a proposed $300 million electrical transmission line that would transmit power – especially renewable power – between southeast California and southwest Arizona. This creates opportunities for electricity providers. “You can make all the power you want, but if you can’t get it onto the grid, it’s no good,” Minor added.

Crucially, the land is designated as ‘disturbed ground’, meaning that it is not in a native state and therefore development creates minimal impact on the environment. This in turn allowed the bill to garner the support of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, which has been asserting the importance of proper handling of tribal artifacts discovered in recent years at utility-scale solar projects. Tribal Chairman Dennis Patch said this project represented “good policy.”

“Since time immemorial, the Mohave people have lived in what is now La Paz County, and our history is buried beneath the sands and in the rocks. It is time for federal policy to recognize the history of Native people, not try to erase it. Through this legislation, CRIT and our partners in La Paz County will start to turn the page by ensuring that tribal artifacts found while developing this land are reburied on-site, as called for by our culture. We commend Congressman Gosar for championing this bill and helping forge our partnership with La Paz County. We also want to thank Congresswoman Sinema, and the bill’s other cosponsors, for putting good policy ahead of politics and supporting this common sense, non-partisan bill.” – CRIT Chairman Dennis Patch

The legislation requires the County to pay fair-market value for the land, which will be determined by appraisal, but the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the value of the transfer at $6 million. The County will have 20 years to make the purchase. In February 2017, the County issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to renewable energy partners who would use the site for photovoltaic solar energy production, a process which continues now through various stages of development.

Supervisor D.L. Wilson addressed the House Committee on Natural Resources last October, telling the committee that “the County needs economic diversification to provide higher paying jobs and a tax base to allow us to provide services to our vulnerable populations.”

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema joined Gosar, along with Andy Biggs and Trent Franks, to cosponsor the bill.

“Arizonans want our leaders to come together to deliver solutions to local challenges—and that’s exactly what this bill does. I’m proud to work across the aisle with Congressmen Gosar and Biggs to push through Washington gridlock and help bring good-paying jobs to families in La Paz County, and more affordable, renewable energy to Arizona.” – Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema

Congresswoman Martha McSally also worked on the bill.

“The La Paz County Land Conveyance Act is critical to Arizona and for energy development in the state. This bill will lead to new jobs and economic growth in the region,” said Congresswoman McSally. “When Supervisor Wilson contacted me about this legislation, I reached out to, and worked with, Republican Leadership to bring this bill to the Floor for a vote. I was pleased to see this legislation pass yesterday.” – Congresswoman Martha McSally

The U.S. Senate will hear the bill next, with support from Arizona Senator Jeff Flake.

41 comments

  1. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    This is a terrible bill. As I understand it, this “solar company” wanted to lease this land from BLM, which rejected the plan. So, to do an end run around BLM, Member Gosar, in collusion with La Paz County promulgated this bill and was approved by a Congress which is notorious for not reading any bill. Now, Prop 401 which was unfortunately approved by the ignorant in La Paz County, now provides the $3 million as a down payment on this property, which the County could not have spent because of state constitutional limitations.

    So what we have is a private company using the Federal and County governments to do an end run around BLM and the public lands which are OWNED by all Americans.

    What I would like to see is the economic impact study BLM did on this property had it approved the plan. Then I would like to see the economic development plan that the County did. I’ll bet no such plan was developed. If there was, we would be seeing real numbers coming from Parker. No, this whole thing stinks in my mind.

    So, La Paz County, tell us what the long term economic impact will be? Will there be tax breaks for this company, for how long? What will it cost the citizens of La Paz County? Remember, a tax break or credit is an EXPENSE item on the ledger, we end up paying that tax ourselves to balance the budget. How many permanent employees will be hired after construction? How many local employees will be hired for good wages during construction? In the end, what is the net short term financial benefit for La Paz County? After all, this was the whole idea for this corrupted plan.

    It’s okay, there won’t be an answer coming by anyone with any authority.

    Mark my words. This is a complete scam played upon the County Board and the citizens of La Paz County.

  2. Melissa Ann Hill

    You hit the nail right on the head. 👌

  3. Parker Live

    John- Where do you get your information from? Is this just speculation on your part, or do you have actual proof of what you’re saying?

  4. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Parker Live Updates Because Parker Live did no objective journalistic research other than copy pasting government propaganda, I took the issue a step further. I filled in the blanks.

    Is it not true that Member Gosar, with the cooperation of La Paz County produced this bill? The answer is yes. Did not BLM reject the original lease plan as presented to them? Is is not true that the County asked for Prop 401 to increase it’s “spending” over the Constitutional limits and basically could be used for anything, including switching resources from one budget to another to the tune of $3 million this FY? Coincidence? Otherwise how else would the County be able to make the purchase for $6 million (over time)? If Prop 401 did not pass, how could the County spend the money for the land? True? Of course it is. I warned against this just before the election, this thing smelled then.

    Now, according to the propaganda ya’ll posted, the County is making all sorts of claims, but there is no substance because you are not asking the tough questions.

    Here are a few. 1) Where is the economic impact study to justify the expense to buy this land? 2) As this land is being purchased on behalf of a private company (the County says so) what kind of taxation credits or exemptions are on the table? 3) How much money is being transferred to the County for lease (or sale, it’s not clear) to this private company? 4) How much money was “contributed” to Gosar and others political war chests by this company? 5) How many permanent jobs will be created for local citizens, high paying or minimum wage? 6) How many local contractors (high paying wages) will be used for the construction? 7) Will the County have to pay for infrastructure improvements, roads, etc.?

    These are all fair subjects to question. If we don’t ask the tough questions, then we may just let government run amok. Sadly, the media is playing lapdog, which I find disgusting.

  5. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Let me put it this way…what if instead of the “solar company” an this was oil company, would there be questions asked? My point is that this sets a bad precedent. When a private company can circumvent the protections afforded to Federal (public lands) lands by just talking a county and then a member of Congress to put together a bill which “sells” our land to a county so they can lease or sell it to a private company, we are in big trouble.

  6. I’d like to see some of John’s questions answered. I agree with him.

  7. Parker Live

    John- On the question of objective journalistic research, I reported the facts including the statements of several stakeholders (all with different interests), the vote taken by the U.S. House of Representatives (including a link to the video of it happening AND a link to the language of the bill itself) and direct statements in answer to questions I asked elected leaders. Far from “propaganda”, a description which amounts to simply a baseless assertion on your part.

    When you say you “filled in the blanks”, I want to know what you filled it with: bullshit? or something based on factual information?

    With respect to your questions about $3 million, where did you get that number from? Did you make it up? I’ve seen nothing mentioning $3 million anywhere. The CBO’s estimate was $6m, which can be paid (if you read the bill) up to 20 years from now.

    You ask: “How else would the County be able to make the purchase for $6 million?” If this is a project with a developer, I would imagine that their deal with the County will include the costs of the land, though that’s just a guess as no such deal has been announced yet (and it’s completely typical for them to be negotiated in private meantime).

    Thanks for your other questions, I certainly wouldn’t mind posing them to County officials, but you may have to take back your baseless, stupid, inaccurate insults first.

  8. It does seem a bit shady.
    The tax revenue sounds great but at what cost, initial & down the road.
    My immediate thought was the land sell off to other entities. Especially when resources are involved…like water.
    La Paz county doesn’t have a good track record of sound business deals.

  9. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Parker Live Updates I stand by what I wrote. You are cherry picking, out of context, parts of certain points I made. I can understand your defensive attitude because I raised points and posed questions you should have asked if you were a true journalist. This is a very important issue. As for the $3 million, you might want to read up on your own media’s posting about Prop 401. It doesn’t take much of a leap to possibly connect some dots. I raised valid questions based upon the existing facts. Did you even consider that the county, acting on behalf of a private company, which then conspired with member Gosar to create a bill which allowed the Federal government to sell land to the county which then intends to hand it over to a private company should raise some red flags? In the end the American people lose 8,000 acres of public lands, lands we will never get back.

    As I suggested in a previous post. What if this had been an oil company approaching the county because it can’t get BLM approval? How would that scenario be reported? The same? Not all of us have been dumbed down. As a representative democracy we must hold our officials accountable and responsible.

    So, a bunch of folks in DC decided our fate. Again, how many read the bill and understand the dangerous precedent being set.

  10. Parker Live

    John- To raise questions that you want answered is one thing, and perfectly understandable. To allege a conspiracy theory, impugne the work of the media covering it, make baseless assertions that you’ve plucked from nowhere and then make it sound like anyone who doesn’t believe it is “dumbed down”; well, I’m sorry if I don’t respond with head nodding and jump into action. As far as our coverage of the story goes, I don’t know what makes you think this is the last word on it. It’s a developing story and this is just one stage. But by all means, if you think there’s something more here, I’m sure Infowars will report the truth. Good luck!

  11. I have heard a lot of grumblings about this from the Quartzite community. Since the $6 million can be paid back over 20 years, maybe the La Paz community can feel a little bit better about this project. Parker Live – reading the comments is the only way I found out about this 20 year payment plan.

    I can see why citizens will balk over the tax bill, so more information will be better. Paul Gosar has a way of making a lot of bad proposals look good and convincing people of things that aren’t in their best interest. I can see why people of the community are skeptical of him.

  12. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    To be fair and balanced, maybe we could have heard why the BLM wasn’t more proactive in developing this land for a solar project. One advantage of having this project in county hands, is that people can have more impact and influence on the County on what kind of solar project is best for the community.

  13. Ana- Although the 20 years wasn’t mentioned specifically in the article (now amended with that addition), the link within the piece is to the actual bill itself which can be viewed by anybody at anytime and isn’t very long or complicated. Also, I wouldn’t take ‘grumblings’ as an immediate sign of any legitimate grievance; America is rife with conspiratorial thinking, promulgation of fake news and social media nonsense.

  14. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Ana Maria Perez ForCongress As I understand it, BLM said the land was not suitable. Remember, these were public lands, not state, just as most of the state. As for the county, this scheme was done at the behest of a private company, which eliminates public checks and balances, in fact it circumvents it. When were we, the citizens given input over this scheme? Who of us were asked or informed by the county or member Gosar? This is a fairly large expenditure by the county, $6 million and when were we informed? My concern is that if this private company can use whatever influence they had to remove public lands from the Federal rolls through the county and member Gosar, what’s next? The precedent has been established. As I suggest, again, what if an oil company wants a piece of land and BLM says no? Now all they have to do is influence a county which in turn gets with their member of Congress, write a bill and voila! An I the only one who recognizes this danger?

  15. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    John Stephen Lane Sr. I am starting to question…why were the chemehuevi not asked of their opinion? Did the Navajo or Hopi leaders have input on this decision, since they are part of CRIT? Also we have seen that tribal leaders make decisions that can be seen as self serving for their pocketbooks, and not for the tribe. I haven’t seen what happened with the tribal recall election, and is that the same leader? John , I think this legislation deserves more review and we will want to contact the Senate committee that is reviewing this with our concerns. I had an earlier comment on this article through Parker live website that doesn’t post immediately, so I had an earlier comment on this. Anything done or proposed by Gosar deserves heavy skepticism.

  16. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    John Stephen Lane Sr. No there are about four or five people here on FB and many in the community who smell corruption and don’t appreciate this loophole for the land to go into private hands. And then have to pay for it with taxpayer money. I think a compromise would be make it into the legislation to keep it in county ownership and only lease to the power company that wins the bid. That way the community maintains control over the land. John, let’s contact the committee in the Senate that will review this – can you research that for me?

  17. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    If anyone wants to protest to the Senate to please avoid selling federal land to a future private solar company, against the wishes of BLM and the community – https://www.facebook.com/LaPazCountyDemocrats/ is a place we can start putting our opinion and efforts to organize a petition or letter campaign

  18. Parker Live Updates

    Ana- The CRIT Chairman speaks on behalf of all of CRIT, not just the Mohave. I’m not sure what you think doesn’t pass your sniff test; it seems to me like a win-win-win. But sure, there are all sorts of questions that will continue to be asked and answered as the process continues, including at the Senate. At the heart of it: the fact (undisputed by every La Paz County Supervisor who’s ever served, as far as I know) that the county is suffering with massively underfunded tax rolls because 94% of the lands aren’t serving any developed purpose that raises tax revenue, and so an extremely lean county budget is unable to provide many services to citizens that governments normally do; this is something most Democrats would be keen to see rectified). But yes, there’ll be lots more on this as it goes forward.

  19. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Ana Maria Perez ForCongress In many cases, it lands are sold to a government, there are already restrictions as to re-sale, which is why I stated sold/leased in a previous post. I can take a look at the Public Law for specifics. However it does not answer the major question I have about how a private company could be allowed to influence a County to create this scheme in the first place. Now, I can understand a County buying property for the purpose of creating some sort of economic zone and then advertise for tenants. This does not appear to be the case since this private company was the driving force here, substantiated by the County and the media. It should be noted that the Feds have already created “Solar Zones” out of current Public Lands. So what makes this particular piece of land so important?

    In the end, that $6 million is a lot of money for such a “poor” county. The question of possible tax breaks/credits by the County/State have not been answered. I suspect there has to be some sweetener involved here. How many PERMANENT full time good paying jobs will be created? How many local companies will have a substantial contribution to the construction? This was part of the County argument for this scheme. Then there is member Gosar’s involvement. Has anyone identified this company and checked to see if there were any “contributions” to his campaign?

    These are all fair and legitimate questions which should be answered.

  20. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    Parker Live, my sniff test is feedback from the community online and in person. I’ve heard nothing but resistance and skepticism, except from leaders or media. I’m all for gaining profit and benefiting the community, but I seem to recall hearing of a BLM meeting on this issue and the community wasn’t pleased of this proposal.

    I have input from Morgaine4LD5 that she sees this as a bipartisan issue and she will be also be gathering feedback – good and bad, from the La Paz County community

  21. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    Parker Live Updates wasn’t the CRIT chairman recently recalled? I heard he was since re-elected, but why was he recalled? Wasn’t there a question of his corruption over taking in personal profit over a business deal?

  22. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    John Stephen Lane Sr. Yes let’s research it further. What if the money of from lease were paid back into the community and there was no burden on the tax payer? I also want to insist that any company that bids on this is an American company. With foreign corporations, there is too much room for money laundering through an offshore account for the leaders who broker this deal

  23. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    Parker Live Updates thank you for giving us this forum and opportunity to air out our concerns. It makes for a happier community once people weigh the pros and cons. Sometimes I have seen a certain logic of Gosar’s ideas and proposals only to find out later he’s taken us on a ride to a pro-business-only, anti-public interest agenda funded by corporate interests. This may be an exception to the rule, but conditions should be built in to avoid private sale, or non-American business having control over our utility supply. I intend to change the latter situation once I’m elected.

  24. Joe Sena

    I have one question.. will our ENORMOUS APS ELECTRIC BILLS go down now ?

  25. Lillian Stulce

    Ana Maria Perez ForCongress I certainly hope you aren’t running for office in this area when you don’t even know how the people of this area are governed. Tribal politics can be tricky but to run for a district and not know the difference between tribes and the culmination of the Colorado River Indian Tribes is insulting.

  26. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    Lillian Stulce The reporter mentioned the chairman referring to Mohave tradition. So since he represents the culmination…is he really representing the culmination of tribes?

  27. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Lillian Stulce It is true that Tribal traditions and laws can be confusing as they are sovereign nations which means there can be differences. Differences are not always obvious unless an individual tribe takes issue. One may speak for all or most, but that is always conditioned upon the specific issue. There may be general agreement, but it’s not necessarily binding because each tribe had it’s own special interests. It’s complicated. Tribes are much quicker to respond to issues because they have special interests and smaller governing bodies. The argue she does not understand is a bit unfair. Do you really think that member Gosar gives a damn about the tribes? The way the bill is written is to guarantee native artifacts NOT on tribal land, which makes no sense as the courts have always ruled against hereditary rights as justification. The artifacts subject is meant to quell and tribal opposition since that would be their only objection.

  28. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    I am assuming that you are referring to the pricing of solar versus traditional generation. Power rates are regulated by the state, not the Federal government.

    One way to save on electricity, other than the various plans (confusing for sure), would be to install a Powerwall2 which would store energy during off peak (cheaper rates) and be used to offset the high use devices during the day (peak hours). Some utilities are installing these Powerwalls throughout their systems to create a virtual power storage system. You could consider solar, obviously to go along with the Powerwall allowing you to used stored energy first.

    Deregulation of electric companies, allowing them to compete throughout the sate would also help. This would require citizens to create a Proposition for all to vote one because the state legislature will never allow deregulation.

  29. Lily Tiger

    Ana Maria Perez ForCongress you’re in no position to talk about “fair and balanced” when you just made defamatory statements about CRIT Chairman Patch. Do your research before making such libelous statements against a person. Your comments are baseless and should be beneath someone hoping to hold public office.

  30. Lily Tiger

    Ana Maria Perez ForCongress your comment is baseless and defamatory against Chairman Patch… this kind of rhetoric is far beneath the dignity of a representative of our state 😬

  31. Candi Evans-Alauria

    Please tell me this isn’t something Ken McFarland had his hand in.

  32. 6 million dollars over 20 years. Seriously this county has significant budget issues. You couldn’t fix a swimming pool even after donations from the community. The Arizona Diamondbacks donate a baseball field, cant maintain that either. Further investigation needs to be done before spending taxpayer dollars.

  33. Stewart- The swimming pool was the Town of Parker’s, not La Paz County. Entirely different issue and jurisdiction. With respect to spending taxpayer money, there is nothing in this deal that requires spending taxpayer money.

  34. Karen Harjo

    Lillian Stulce Do you really think Gosar knows or cares? He doesn’t and is a wack job on top of that.

  35. Karen Harjo

    Lily Tiger She asked a question of his motives. To make her questioning into an insult it’s clear that you are an overzealous supporter of Chairman Patch.

  36. John Stephen Lane Sr.

    Obviously this map gives virtually no context to it’s location, which frankly in the grand scheme of things is irrelevant. To give an idea where this is, it’s about 36 miles east of Quartzsite, along I-10.

    Now I have asked here, so I will ask again some pertinent questions that Parker Live might consider finding answers for.

    It has been claimed by the country and member Gosar that this planned solar installation, previously rejected by BLM, if is purchased by the county with Senate and Presidential approval will be some sort of “boon” to the economy of La Paz County. So, here again are the questions.

    1. Since the county has claimed that there will be an economic benefit to the county, where is the economic impact study to justify this claim?

    2. Will this land, 8,000+/- acres be sold or leased to the private company which colluded with the county to attempt to purchase this land from the Federal government?

    3. Will this private company be given any tax credits or breaks or other subsidies as a sweetener to build on this land?

    4. During construction, what La Paz County companies will have a primary contract to build? How many high paying permanent jobs will be created as the County has suggested?

    5. Will the County have to make infrastructure improvements, who will pay and how much will it cost the taxpayers?

    6. Where is the money to buy this land, if approved, going to come from? The county claims it’s poor and yet put Prop 401 on the ballot says it can spend an extra $3 million over what the AZ Constitution say’s it can this year. Instead of paying down debt, they are using the money in a “general fund”, aka slush fund for whatever they want. They did not give any specifics, only generalities. Where did this money come from if taxes won’t raised, according to the County? Coincidence that the County now has an extra $3 million and the possibility of buying this acreage? Yes, the land is $6 million (where is that money coming from?), but the County has 20 years to buy it all up in parcels.

    I know I won’t get any answers. But I would be remiss if I did not put the questions out there.

    By the way, I am not against solar energy or improvements to the county and it’s tax base. What I have issue with is the backdoor way around BLM by the County and member Gosat for the benefit of a private company. It’s a bad precedent to “sell” Public Lands for the purpose of giving a private company something it cannot get using the existing laws.

    What if this was an oil company that was rejected by BLM and they were able to collude with a county and then a member of Congress to get the land anyway from the American people?

  37. How does La Paz County expect to pay 25,000 extra a month on the land when they have needed million dollar loans to keep the government open? Is there a plan?

  38. Ana Maria Perez ForCongress

    How does La Paz County expect to pay $25,000 extra a month on the land when they have needed million dollar loans to keep the government open? Is there a plan?

  39. Mary McCord Robinson

    I would like to hear more from the people living in La Paz County. Has there not been any public meetings? Seem’s like this is sliding under the radar.

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