The Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians seem to be recycling an old economic development plan recycling.
The latest venture would come in the form of bales of garbage household trash from the Wasatch Front with all the cardboard, newspaper, glass, plastics and other recyclables removed and tightly compressed together in bundles to be buried on 500 acres of the reservation, 75 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
"This is a neat deal for the Goshutes," said Steve Handy, spokesman for the CR Group, a consortium of garbage operators that entered into the deal with the tribe last September.
Goshute Indians stand to earn a minimum of $15,000 a month in rent and royalties from the landfill operation, called "Tekoi Balefill," and provide 20 tribal members jobs to operate it, Handy said.
"This is a tremendous and necessary benefit to our people," Leon Bear, the tribal chairman, said in a prepared statement.
But a garbage dump is not most people's idea of desirable development.
"The reservation is not a wasteland," said Margene Bullcreek, one of the few Goshutes who lives on the reservation. "It's not a very positive economic development for our children."
In fact, Bullcreek recalls that the Goshutes lost millions of dollars in a similar deal made with LE&B, a limited liability company based in Kentucky, back in the mid-1990s when the recycling plant went belly up. "We lost a lot of money on that when it went bankrupt," she added.
Tooele County bought the property in bankruptcy court, and it is now the county's recycling and landfill facility.
County commissioners say the greatest impact of the landfill will be felt on the reservation, where waste is nearly the only economic development the impoverished tribe has been able to attract.
"There's no real advantage to us other than the Goshutes hurting for businesses and money," said Commissioner Dennis Rockwell. "If it's going to benefit them, then it's great."
The economic benefits of a separate proposal by a consortium of nuclear power utilities to store highly radioactive spent fuel rods on the reservation prompted the Tooele County Commission to support it. That proposal by Private Fuel Storage is still pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Tekoi Balefill, so-called because its location is near Tekoi Knolls, 10 miles north of the Dugway Proving Grounds, is undergoing environmental review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is taking public comments through the end of March.
Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has little oversight because the proposal is on sovereign land, backers of the project say it's a very laborious regulatory process.
"The federal regulations are extremely strict," said Handy. He and LaVarr Webb are consultants for the CR Group, whose principals include Ace Disposal and Metro Waste.
Project backers hope to have the facility constructed by summer.
Plans call for hauling the waste in compressed baled bunches weighing up to 4,000 pounds each about 5,000 tons of waste a day by the truckload to Skull Valley, after the garbage has been sorted out to remove all recyclables at the Metro and Ace transfer stations in the Salt Lake Valley. The landfill, which would have a life expectancy of 50 years, will have a liner to protect against leaching. As each cell of the balefill is filled it will be capped, covered with topsoil and revegetated under the EPA and BIA standards."This is just regular waste residue," said Handy. "There is nothing toxic."