Tag Archives: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

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Laws of the land: Navigating development in Indian Country

Gerrit Steenblik, Polsinelli

Gerrit Steenblik, Polsinelli

Anyone who has tried to develop on one of the 22 federally recognized Indian tribes’ land in Arizona has probably encountered the patchwork of land ownership that can sometimes make it difficult to build. Land on reservations can be owned by the tribe, held in trust and owned by an individual (both allotted property and non). Recently, Polsinelli’s Gerrit Steenblik and Anne Kleindienst shared that to negotiate a 55-year land lease for the development of the Noah Webster school on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, they had to work with many departments of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, including the general counsel’s office, the economic development division, the treasurer’s office, the education administration and the community’s public relations office, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the allotted land owners.

Each tribe functions as a sovereign nation and provides a variety of governmental services to tribal members.

Roxann Gallagher, Sacks Tierney

Roxann Gallagher, Sacks Tierney

“Because few tribes tax their members, many tribes engage in commercial activities to generate sufficient revenue to provide these services,” says Roxann Gallagher, attorney at Sacks Tierney. “As a result, we have traditionally seen a mix of bonds, either tax-exempt or taxable, issued to acquire, construct or improve both governmental and commercial facilities.”

With the introduction of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, came $2B meant to broaden the reach of tax-exempt funding for commercial development. A significant portion of that $2B volume cap for tribal economic development bonds are still available.

Native American communities can issue tax-exempt bonds to finance construction projects that will benefit their own community, such as government and community buildings. Various departments also offer federal grants to fund schools, pre-school programs, health care, and infrastructure, including water systems and roads in Indian country.

“Keys to success [with regards to building in Indian country] included the personal relationships, long-range planning to avoid last-minute glitches and the fact that the new Noah Webster School responded to a genuine need of the community, leading to a win-win result,” says Steenblik, who was the borrower’s counsel for the Noah Webster School being constructed on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The construction of the new Noah Webster Schools-Pima project within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is being funded by a tax-exempt bond issued by the Industrial Development Authority of Pima County that is only available to tax exempt, nonprofit and non-Indian owned business.

“Construction financing undertaken by a tribal government or tribal governmental entity has many of the same challenges as any other governmental financing in terms of timing, structure, respect for political processes, and adherence to regulatory requirements,” says Gallagher. “Most notably, however, there are some additional legal and business issues that must be considered if certain tribal real property or restricted revenues are intended as security for the indebtedness. For instance, there are federal restrictions on the alienation of tribal property, potentially complicated title issues, and limitations on recourse against some potential sources of repayment.”

Ed Rubacha, Jennings, Haug & Cunningham

Ed Rubacha, Jennings, Haug & Cunningham

Though Jennings, Haug & Cunningham’s Ed Rubacha says it’s unlikely for tribal communities to resist payment by declaring sovereign immunity after a project is completed, the disputes of the Hualapai Skywalk and Ranch can make some developers nervous. Granted, if it’s a large project, Rubacha says, with a well-known tribe it may be smart to ask for a waive of immunity. A recent example being the Navajo Nation waiving its right to declare immunity on a $500M purchase of a coal mine being purchased by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

In the early 2000’s, the Navajo Nation decided to build its first casino in Arizona. It wouldn’t break ground until 2011 or open until May 2013. Twin Arrows employs 1,300 people and will make $45M a year. Instead of enlisting the help of a commercial bank, developers worked with the Navajo government to secure adequate funding.

“In 2009-10, the capital market was really soft,” says Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise Chief Executive Darrick Wachtman. “Wall Street wasn’t lending to the casino startups. There was no activity. It was a good opportunity for the nation to get good returns. The interest rate was higher than market. It’s dependent on the cash-flow leverage.”

As for developers, Gallagher reports positive feedback: “Sacks Tierney’s clients have found that successful tribal finance transactions are akin to hitting a perfect golf shot in that the result is well worth the effort.”

Grand Canyon

Solar-Power, Eco-Friendly Grand Canyon & More

With so much happening locally, this week we’ve gathered stories about Arizona’s green endeavors, including a solar-powered plane and the Grand Canyon’s eco-friendly practices, and why a massive lawn is part of the Postal Service’s goal to reduce its energy needs.

Please feel free to send along any interesting stories you’d like to see featured in the roundup by e-mailing Shelby Hill.

Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state. Read the latest article here.


Green Roof Gives Postal Service Energy Savings
In Midtown Manhattan one building is lucky enough to have a lawn, on its roof.  This 2.5-acre lawn isn’t for sunbathing; it is part of the United States Postal Service’s goal of reducing its energy 30 percent by 2015.  With the help of this immense lawn, the USPS is more than two-thirds of the way to meeting its goal.

Unmanned Solar Plane Flies for more than a Week
A solar-powered unmanned plane flew a total of 336 in Arizona and landed last Friday.  The previous record for longest flight of an unmanned solar-powered plane was 30 hours, which the 110-pound plane beat by more than 10 times.

The Grand Canyon Goes Green
As previously mentioned ecotourism is a new way to be green while on vacation.  Well, now one of the most famous and most visited vacation spots in Arizona, the Grand Canyon, is a little bit greener.  With solar panels powering a building and recycling bins scattered along trails, your family’s visit to the Grand Canyon just got more eco-friendly.

The Greenest Wedding So Far
We’ve written about green weddings before ,but all of the others pale in comparison to this greenest of the green weddings.  A couple from Maine is growing and raising (yes they’re raising their own chickens) all of the food to be served at their wedding.  Aren’t weddings stressful enough?

Feds Capture and Recycle CO2
The federal government, via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is putting $106 million into six projects that turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into beneficial products.  The products range from biofuel to cement

Renewable Energy

Arizona Awarded $9.5 Million For Energy Projects

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that over $354 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is being awarded to 22 states to go toward energy efficiency and conservation activities.

This money will be used to support state-level energy efficiency priorities as well as fund local conservation projects in smaller cities and counties.

Arizona received approximately $9.5 million “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourage development, promotion and application of advances building codes and green buildings statewide.”

Eighty percent of the funds will be distributed to local cities and counties to implement their own energy efficiency programs.

In order to receive funding, it is then up to the local governments to focus on projects demonstrating a high return on investment, leveraged funds, jobs created, interactions with community colleges and technical and trade schools and a shared community approach.

The goal of the Recovery Act-funded projects will be to “..reduce energy usage and costs, increase the use of renewable energy applications within communities, and create jobs across the state.”

So what does this mean for Arizona? Only time will tell but I’m looking forward to seeing the various programs and incentives. One thing’s for sure, this is great news for our state, our nation and our sustainable future.

Read more about the announcement here.