Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Millie Garrett dances Thursday during the groundbreaking ceremony in Honeyville, Box Elder County, for geothermal power plant.

The Northwestern Band of Shoshone has contracted with Riverside, Calif., to supply the city with electricity to be drawn from the ground their forefathers once wintered on.

Tribal council members blessed the ground Wednesday on the site of Shoshone Renaissance, the first geothermal power plant to be built just north of Brigham City, in an area known as Call's Fort.

Bruce Parry, tribal council leader, said the Shoshone used to winter in this area because the heat emanating from the earth made the climate more tolerable and there was more feed for the horses. "It's about time we got back to utilizing these areas," Parry said.

Steam from the earth's interior can be used to generate electricity.

The Northwestern Band of Shoshone Nation Economic Development Corp. has entered into a 30-year contract with Riverside to provide 64 megawatts of electricity, about 20 percent of Riverside's renewable energy. Cities in California are now required by law to have 33 percent renewable energy.

Parry said the tribe has not even begun to allocate future revenues from this contract, but education and health of the tribe are at the top of the list. Those things will be worked out with in the tribe in the next two years, he said.

Steven Morello, deputy assistant secretary for Intergovermental Affairs, United States Department of Energy, said the federal government is thrilled to be involved in a project of this nature, and not just because of the energy creation. It also incorporates the Native American's spiritual relationship with the earth, because it will help clean it up, and it will also help make the reservations self-sufficient.

"Sovereignty means self-determination, it means we have the right to determine our own future and to set the agenda," said Morello. "Unfortunately, if you don't have the resources to implement decisions you make as a sovereign people, you cannot be truly sovereign people. As long as we're shaking the tin cup at Washington and asking for nickels, we cannot make progress."

Drilling for the plant will begin this month, and it is scheduled for completion in 2010. Shoshone Renaissance is one of five plants to be built by the tribe. The four remaining plants will be in southern Idaho, with construction to begin on the next plant in Preston early next year.