BulkTransmission/Native American Concerns

From Open Energy Information

Transmission Native American Concerns

Native American Concerns
Present, Potentially Affected

Native American concerns about transmission line projects stem from the desire to protect their sacred lands, cultural resources, cultural practices and environmental justice. Consult with tribes early in the planning process to identify potential issues in land development. Four legislative pieces that protect Native American interests are:

  • The Archaeological Resources Protection Act (16 U.S.C 470aa-470mm, Public Law 96-95) was put in action to protect archaeological artifacts and sites located on public lands, including tribal lands. This act also enables linkages between government agencies, private landowners and professional archaeological associations to occur.
  • The National Historic Preservation Act (16 U.S.C. 470 et seq. P.L. 98-665) requires tribe consultation before a project begins, to determine whether or not development will cause detriment to scared artifacts, practices or lands. This act also created the National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmarks and State Historic Preservation Offices.
  • Native Americans have mixed feelings towards the Federal Land Management Policy Act (FLPMA) (43 U.S.C. 1701) as its multiple use clause encourages energy development, but also protects Native American practices.


Native American Concerns Impacts & Mitigation

Construction and operation procedures may disturb Native American lands and item discovery may also inhibit further development. While site assessments and surveys are comprehensive, it is still possible to discover human remains and artifacts underneath vegetation or buried in the soil. Culturally significant plants or animal resources may also be discovered.

Mitigate project impacts with the following techniques:

Human remains

  • If any human remains are discovered onsite, ongoing projects within 300 feet must cease.

Burial sites

  • Notify lineal descendants or tribe affiliates before removing known burials.
  • Develop a contingency plan with the tribal government(s) for unanticipated burials and funerary goods that occur during transmission line construction, maintenance, or operation.


  • During tribe consultation, agree on methods to handle incidentally found items. These methods could include removal, avoidance, repatriation, or curation.


  • During tribal consultation, communicate the proposed transmission line’s corridor, including substations and ancillary facilities.
  • Avoid visual impacts by rerouting the line and identifying important sites on tribal lands.

Culturally significant plant and animal resources

  • Some species may hold cultural significance and require avoidance.
  • If a plant species cannot be avoided in construction or remain unaffected by the transmission line, mitigation includes protecting the same species elsewhere on tribal lands or transplanting the species to an unaffected area.
  • Avoid game trails, migration routes, and nesting/breeding areas of culturally significant animals and fish.
  • When projects cross streams containing culturally significant fish, check water quality levels often.
  • Use riprap, geotextiles, or silt fencing to mitigate silt sedimentation or erosion impacts.


  • Reseed with weed-free soil mixtures.
  • Check with the leasing agency for specific plot sizes and timelines appropriate for sparsely vegetated areas.

Cultural sites

  • Roads that access tribal facilities such as cultural sites or sacred grounds are to remain open and passable.
  • This includes cultural springs, where project activities must be located at least 1,000 feet away to avoid negative impacts.
  • If construction occurs nearby, use geotextiles or silt fencing to mitigate silt from entering the water source.
  • To ensure the health of the spring is unaffected, water quality mitigation measures apply. (See water quality page)


  • These features may occur in one or many areas throughout tribal lands. Avoidance ensures area protection; however, if one or more areas are unable to be avoided, discuss alternatives during tribal consultation.

Tribal Consultation

  • In addition to the topics mentioned above, tribal consultation typically includes: project proponents, maps, design features, proposed rights-of-way routes, construction methods, specific concerns from either party, resolutions for each concern, hazard and safety management plan, and monitoring efforts or operator training programs.

Factors Affecting Native American Concerns

The following factors impact the decision process each tribe goes through to accept or decline a project on or near their reservation.

Economic Benefits and Energy Independence

Energy development provides an economic stimulus to tribes. Several reservations live with limited access to electricity and desire a growing job market. Transmission line projects can provide both. Tribes are interested in royalties and how much electricity will be available for use. Some tribes are looking to become energy independent with the Power Purchase Agreement. This agreement sells energy in blocks to consumers at Levelized costs. This predicts how long they will have an energy supply and where it is coming from.