Prairie Island Indian Community purchased a portion of vacant land near Pine Island as part of ongoing efforts to expand away from Prairie Island nuclear plant.

The sale was finalized late last month from Tower Investments LLC. The California-based real estate and development company owns around 1,900 acres along Highway 52 formerly called Elk Run. The commercial and residential development has since been renamed Tower Pine Island.

It is too early yet to announce plans for the newly purchased land, Prairie Island Indian Community said in a statement Wednesday, Jan. 2. No financial details of the sale were disclosed.

According to the statement:

“What we can say is that it is our intention to be a good neighbor and in that spirit we are in the process of meeting with representatives from local units of government to talk about the purchase and introduce the Prairie Island Indian Community.”

Development of the Elk Run land at one time called for a biotechnology business park, but the plan never panned out.

A Tower Investments executive deferred comments on the sale to Prairie Island Indian Community.

Nuclear waste storage

The deal followed the March 2016 announcement by Prairie Island Indian Community of the purchase of 112 acres of land in West Lakeland Township, near Lake Elmo in Washington County.

The acquisitions stem from a 2003 state law governing on-site storage of radioactive waste at Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear plant, which sits immediately adjacent to Prairie Island Indian Community. The law includes support for Prairie Island Indian Community to purchase up to 1,500 acres within 50 miles of Prairie Island and put the land into a federal trust.

Prairie Island Indian Community has long opposed storage of spent nuclear fuel at Prairie Island nuclear plant, citing health and safety concerns. The area also faces the risk of flooding on the Mississippi River and the potential for a train derailment that could block the only evacuation route off the island.

There was some momentum in the federal government in 2018 toward establishing a consolidated repository for the country’s nuclear waste. A bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives and was referred to the Senate would direct the Department of Energy to temporarily store the waste while a long-delayed permanent storage facility is developed in the Nevada desert. It remains to be seen how the issue will be addressed by lawmakers in 2019.