February 10, 2015

Barrasso Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Address Aging Indian Irrigation Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act or IRRIGATE Act. The bill holds the federal government accountable for addressing the maintenance backlog of aging Indian irrigation projects in Wyoming and across the West. 
“Over a century ago, the federal government made a promise to Indian Country to build and maintain Indian irrigation projects like the ones on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming,” said Chairman Barrasso.  “The reality is that hasn’t happened.  These aging projects are in desperate need of repair and maintenance.  Our bill follows through on our commitment to tribal communities by ensuring our irrigation projects are safe and efficient.”
Committee on Indian Affairs Vice Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) and Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Steve Daines (R-MT) are co-sponsors of the IRRIGATE Act.
A 2006 GAO report concluded that there are 16 irrigation projects that were initiated by the Department of the Interior.  But the Department did not complete the projects and has made it difficult, if not impossible, for these projects to be self-sustaining.  One of the irrigation projects is located on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. 
Barrasso’s bill ensures the federal government follows through on its promise to build and maintain these projects by providing $35 million each year from 2015 to 2036 to help cover the costs of operations and maintenance.  This includes any structures, facilities, equipment, or vehicles used in connection with the projects.
The bill would authorize funding from the revenues in the Reclamation Fund and would also require a longer-term study on the operations of these projects.