Senate Committee on Indian Affairs: Oversight Hearing – Build Back Better: Water Infrastructure Needs for Native Communities – March 24, 2021
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hosts infrastructure roundtable
Monday, June 21, 2021

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is taking another look at infrastructure in Native communities.

The committee will host a roundtable titled “Concrete Solutions: Building a Successful Foundation for Native Communities’ Infrastructure Development” on Wednesday afternoon. It comes after a prior oversight hearing that focused on water needs in Indian Country.

“We know that Warm Springs is not alone facing these water challenges,” Chairman Raymond Tsumpti of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs said in exposing the lack of adequate infrastructure on his people’s reservation in Oregon.

“We also know there must be a better way for tribes to seek emergency assistance from the federal government to provide basic clean water to our members,” Tsumpti stated in written testimony. “Likewise, many tribes will need help maintaining and operating that infrastructure over time.”

Warm Springs Reservation
The Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. Photo: SMcD22

Infrastructure needs in Native communities extend to schools, hospitals, clinics, roads and bridges, most of which are decades old. The cost to fix, maintain and replace aging facilities in Indian Country runs in the billions of dollars.

At the Bureau of Indian Education, for example, more than 70 schools are in need of replacement. It will cost $4.5 billion to fix them all at current, the House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States was told last week.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has its own maintenance backlog. At the hearing on June 17, a senior official said the price tag for detention centers, irrigation projects and other facilities comes to $1.7 billion.

The Indian Health Service estimates it will cost at least $14 billion to replace aging structures. The three largest health centers in the nation — the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage Alaska; the Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, New Mexico; and the Phoenix Indian Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona — are among the facilities in need of replacement.

The infrastructure roundtable takes place at 2:30pm Eastern on Wednesday. A list of presenters has not yet been posted online.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice
Roundtable discussion on “Concrete Solutions: Building a Successful Foundation for Native Communities’ Infrastructure Development” (June 23, 2021)

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