WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, praised the Senate’s passage of S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which included the entirety of S. 2717, the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act of 2016 (DRIFT Act).
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. The DRIFT Act was included in S. 2848 as part of a substitute amendment.
“I am glad the Senate has taken action to address the badly needed maintenance of dams in tribal communities,” said Chairman Barrasso. “This bill holds Washington accountable to maintain high-risk dams in Wyoming and across the country. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation soon.”
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, including allowing the Corps to pay for the first $100,000 of any feasibility study for a water resources development project or project for the preservation of cultural and natural resources;
· 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.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed the DRIFT Act on April 27, 2016.