Vice Chairman Murkowski: Historic Infrastructure Package Heading to President's Desk

Big wins for Indian Tribes in Infrastructure bill bringing critical resources to Native communities across the country
Nov 6, 2021
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Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, applauded the House passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, legislation she and a bipartisan group of nine Senators worked for months to negotiate, draft, and pass through the full Senate. Included in the legislation that will now head to the President’s desk is substantial funding for Federal programs and Native communities to address water and sanitation, transportation, broadband, climate and energy resilience, Indian water settlements, new energy technology, drought mitigation, mine and well cleanup, wildfire mitigation, and ecosystem restoration. 

 

“This bipartisan infrastructure bill is one of the most consequential legislative efforts I have worked on in my Senate career. I am incredibly proud and humbled to have played a leading role in the creation of this legislation,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski.I fought for and championed resources for Native Americans throughout the lengthy negotiations to ensure the Federal government upholds its trust and treaty obligations. Through this bipartisan legislation, many Native communities will be able to address the long-standing needs many other Americans take for granted, including water and sanitation and transportation access. The bill also provides resources for planning and development to adapt to climate change impacts, reduce wildfire risks, reduce the deferred maintenance of irrigation, power and water systems, and build out rural broadband. I want to thank the many Alaskans, including Tribal leaders, organizations, and stakeholders, who worked with me in writing provisions that address the needs of our urban, rural, and Native communities. And a big thank you to my friend and colleague Congressman Don Young, for using his influence and platform in the House to garner support to get this across the finish line. As this historic legislation now heads to the President for his signature, I look forward to working with our federal partners to make these visions on paper become a reality.”

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes significant investments in Native communities, such as:

 

Major Investments in Indian Health Service’s Sanitation Facilities Construction Program – Provides $3.5 billion in technical and financial assistance to American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages through IHS for cooperative development and construction of safe water, wastewater, and solid waste systems and related support facilities. This unprecedented investment in IHS sanitation will clear all known project needs.

 

Funds Congressionally Authorized Indian Water Settlements – Provides $2.5 billion to fund the remaining portions of the authorized discretionary funding for congressionally approved Indian water settlements.  The federal government is involved in Indian water settlements pursuant to its trust responsibilities.  Funding these settlements will allow tribes to pursue authorized projects to access and develop their water resources.

 

Building Climate Change Resilience in Native Communities – Provides $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program for adaptation project planning and development and community relocation for tribes contending with climate change impacts. 

 

Connecting Indian Communities by Investing in Rural Broadband – Provides an additional $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and extends the expenditure deadline. Creates a $1 billion Middle Mile Program for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure. The Middle Mile Program includes a process for designating Tribally unserved or underserved areas in consultation with Tribes and Native entities. The bill creates a Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, which includes a 5 percent set-aside to award grants to, or enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with, Indian Tribes, Alaska Native entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations. Additional funding is provided for the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, which subsidizes broadband service for eligible households.

 

Cleaning Up Orphan and Legacy Wells – Directs funds to the Department of the Interior to clean up orphan wells on public lands and legacy wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and to fund state grants for cleanup of wells on state and private lands. This includes over $2 billion for State grants, $250 million for federal lands, and $150 million for a new grant program to help tribes cleanup orphan wells. Across the country, over 56,000 documented orphaned oil and gas wells can leak methane, contaminate groundwater and create other safety risks.  Federal agencies and states responsible for plugging and reclaiming these wells have had limited funding to address this health hazard.

 

Reducing Wildfire Risk and Enhancing Native Communities – Investments through hazardous fuel reduction projects, forest restoration and community defense grants to reduce wildfire risks, provide firefighter training to Native Village crews, Native Youth Public Land Corps and other programs focused on ecosystem restoration and tribal protection. 

 

Investments in BIA Irrigation, Power, and Sanitation – Includes $250 million for construction, repair, improvement, and maintenance of irrigation and power systems, safety of dams, water sanitation, and other facilities.

 

Tribal Transportation Investments – Includes $2.9 billion for the Tribal Transportation Program, $110 million for the Tribal Transportation Facility Bridge set-aside, allows 100 percent federal share for tribal projects in the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Programs, reinstates and provides funding for the Tribal High Priority Projects Program at $30 million a year for a total of $150 million, increases the set-aside amount for the Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund from 2 percent to 4 percent, and expedited environmental review for tribal transportation safety projects.

 

For a list of tribal provisions that were included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, click here.

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