DRIFT Act passed in April for BIA dams

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed Senate Bill-2717, Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act of 2016 (DRIFT Act), in April 2016.

The bill was introduced by committee Chairman U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and was cosponsored by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). It 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 that focus on flood mitigation and prevention in Native communities.

The bill is now before the full Senate for consideration.

“This is a serious public safety issue, as many dam systems across Indian Country are in desperate need of repairs and maintenance,” Barrasso said. “The DRIFT Act will hold [the federal government] accountable to maintain these dams, and will keep promises made to tribes. I am grateful to the committee for passing this bill so quickly, and I will work with my colleagues to move it through the full Senate 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 do the following:

  • Establish a High-Hazard Indian Dam Safety Deferred Maintenance Fund that would receive US$22.75 million each year from Fiscal Years 2017 through 2037;
  • Establish a Low-Hazard Indian Dam Safety Deferred Maintenance Fund that would receive $10 million each year for the same time period;
  • Designate criteria for how the funds would be prioritized;
  • Reform the Corps’ Tribal Partnership Program to allow the Corps to pay for any feasibility study for a project costing less than $10 million;
  • Conduct a three-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.
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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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