March 27, 2016

Barrasso Introduces Bill Addressing Flood Prevention and Dam Safety Needs of Indian Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced S. 2717, the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act of 2016 (DRIFT Act). The bill is cosponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). 
The DRIFT Act would address the deferred maintenance needs of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) dams, as well as reform tribal programs within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) that focus on flood mitigation and prevention in Native communities.
“At the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and across the west there are Indian dam systems that need maintenance,” said Chairman Barrasso. “This is a matter of public safety for Indian Country. My legislation will hold Washington responsible for keeping promises made to tribes to maintain these systems.”
The DRIFT Act will address the backlog of Indian dam-maintenance needs and improve flood prevention by instructing the secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the secretary of the Army, to:
·         Establish a High-Hazard Indian Dam Safety Deferred Maintenance Fund that would receive $22,750,000 each year from Fiscal Years 2017 through 2037;
·         Establish a Low-Hazard Indian Dam Safety Deferred Maintenance Fund which would receive $10,000,000 each year for the same time period;
·         Designate criteria for how the funds would be prioritized;
·         Reform the Army Corps’ Tribal Partnership Program to allow the corps to pay for any feasibility study for a project costing less than $10,000,000;
·         Conduct a four-year pilot program for a BIA flood mitigation program for tribes; and
·         Create a Tribal Safety of Dams Committee within the Department of the Interior to make recommendations to Congress for modernizing the Indian Dam Safety Act.
The BIA is responsible for 137 high-hazard dams and more than 700 low-hazard dams across the United States. The majority of high-hazard dams are in the western United States. On average, they are 70 to 80 years old and have more than $500 million in deferred maintenance needs.
Two of the high-hazard dams are located on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming – the Washakie Dam and Ray Lake Dam.