Navajo Generating Station

The Navajo Generating Station provides almost 1,000 jobs between the plant and its coal mine.

Amber Brown / Salt River Project/

The Navajo Nation has introduced legislation to extend the lease on a coal-fired power plant in Northern Arizona so it can operate through 2019 and preserve jobs held by Native Americans.

The lease extension would allow for the Navajo Generating Station to be used through December 2019 and then be torn down, The Arizona Republic reported Thursday. If the tribe does not approve a lease extension by July 1, the plant will have to close at the end of this year to be torn down by 2020.

The tribal council, made up of delegates elected by Navajo tribal members, votes on legislation, and the tribe’s president has the option of signing the legislation or vetoing it.

If the deal is approved, the Navajo Nation will earn $110 million in lease payments over the next 35 years plus other financial benefits because the plant’s owners must monitor the land after the facilities are removed.

The tribe also hopes to keep the railroad between the plant and coal mine valued at $120 million, a lake pump facility and electrical switch yard valued at $41 million and access to major transmission lines leading from the plant that the primary power plant owner Salt River Project has valued at about $80 million.

The access to the power lines would allow solar or wind projects on the reservation to deliver electricity to the market.

The tribe hopes to negotiate with the state to acquire 50,000 acre-feet of water from the lake annually once the power plant no longer uses that allotment.

The power plant and a coal mine that supplies it employ about 750 people.

Almost all of the workers are Native Americans from the Navajo and Hopi tribes.