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Gila River-Maricopa Indian Community of Arizona

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Electric rates for many of San Carlos Irrigation Projects 13,300 customers were projected to rise as much as 300 percent this month as a result of California's ongoing energy crisis and skyrocketing cost of buying energy on the open market. This is bad news for the Gila River Community. "If rates go up significantly, our 2,500 residents will be impacted along with our hospital, said tribal spokesman Gary Bohnee. "We may have to look at a long-term option like providing a power source here on the reservation or partnering with an existing power source. The community wants to be in the driver's seat so there's is some control over power availability and delivery. The utility's residential customers - most of whom live in low-income areas - pay an average of $77 a month for electricity and can expect to pay slightly more this month and next, say BIA officials who oversee the 76-year-old federal project. In March, a 28 percent rate hike is being considered. There is no plan to replace the aging San Carlos project which supplies electricity to 3,000 square miles of rural Arizona. Turbines at San Carlos Lake quit working more than a decade ago forcing the project to buy power on the open market.