February 12, 2010

Statement on the Cheyenne River Weather Emergency

Washington DC –
U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, issued the following statement regarding the committee’s oversight work of federal efforts to respond to the Cheyenne River weather emergency which affected tribes in South Dakota:
“Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by the winter weather emergency in South Dakota. The ice storm impacted several Indian reservations, but the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in South Dakota has been particularly hard hit and they have suffered through a very difficult time recently.
“Throughout this emergency, the Committee has been very active. We have worked with federal agencies to do everything possible to help the citizens of Cheyenne River. The Committee has vigorously pursued its oversight responsibilities to ensure that federal agencies, which have the money and the authority to provide direct relief to those affected by the ice storm, are responding urgently and appropriately. We continue to do so.
“The Committee has been in frequent contact and worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Department of Interior, the Indian Health Service and with the tribes, among others, to encourage urgent federal action, monitor the federal response and gauge its effectiveness.
“Some have asked why the committee has not posted information on its website about how to contribute to relief efforts.
“It is important to understand that the Senate’s rules prevent us from including solicitations for donations of any kind – even in circumstances like this. As much as we would like to do so, it would violate Senate rules to post information on where to send donations to tribes, energy companies, or any other group or organization providing assistance in this emergency.
“The committee has focused its oversight responsibility on immediate, day-to-day efforts to ensure that federal agencies, which have money and authority to provide relief, are focused on this on-going emergency and are responding urgently and appropriately. Those affected by this storm need action and the committee’s efforts to ensure that those with authority to act directly are doing so is the best way to ensure that.”
To date, the Committee has determined that the federal and state response to this emergency has been as follows:
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA):
The Regional Office reprogrammed $170,000 of Indian Reservation Road funds to the tribe’s road maintenance program.
The Regional Office provided $132,000 in carryover funds to the Cheyenne River Tribal Transportation Department for additional snow removal costs.
The agency superintendent has conducted detailed surveys to assess power, water and resource needs of each household.
The Regional office has held regular conference calls with tribes, state and federal agencies through the Tribal Assistance Coordinating Group (an emergency response team including other agencies).
The BIA, at the Regional and Agency level, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe provided equipment and operators to assist with snow removal.
BIA has provided emergency generators to school locations and repaired broken water lines.
BIA Law Enforcement has provided 10 officers to assist the tribe with law enforcement during the emergency.
The BIA is assisting with repair to the frozen water tower at LaPlant, South Dakota.
Indian Health Service (IHS):
Repaired the water line breaks and pump station within 4 days.
Provided emergency generators to keep the emergency room open during the power outage.
Providing additional Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding for fuel for those who qualify.
Federal Emergency Manamgement Agency (FEMA):
FEMA has begun its damage assessments, which are still underway.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
Provided additional fuel funding for residents who quality.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
Provided additional food distribution to qualified families.
State of South Dakota:
Provided manpower assistance through the State Emergency Operation Center and provided water, food, and generators for the emergency shelters and individuals.
National Guard provided equipment, largely to assist the electric coop in restoration of power.
Current Status:
On February 2nd, 1,200 to 1,400 homes were without power. Our latest information indicates that about 30 to 40 homes in the most remote area of the reservation are without power. By the end of the week end, it is expected that power to all homes will have been restored.
Additional federal funds will become available if the Governor issues a disaster declaration for the affected area.