Vice Chairman Murkowski Secures Significant Investments in Native Communities

Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation Passes Senate and Now Heads to the House

Today, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, provided the following statement after the U.S. Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes substantial funding for Federal programs and Native communities to address water and sanitation, transportation, broadband, climate and energy resilience, Indian water settlements, new energy technology, drought mitigation, mine and well cleanup, wildfire mitigation, and ecosystem restoration. After a strong bipartisan vote of 69-30, the bill now moves back to the House for further consideration.

“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a truly historic achievement for all Americans, including American Indian and Alaska Natives. As the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I was proud to fight for and champion resources for Native Americans throughout these lengthy negotiations to ensure the Federal government upholds its trust and treaty obligations. Through this bipartisan legislation, many Native communities will be able to address the long-standing needs that many Americans take for granted including water and sanitation and transportation access, while also providing resources for planning and development to adapt to climate change impacts, reduce wildfire risks, reduce the deferred maintenance of irrigation, power and water systems, and build out rural broadband. I appreciate the input received from the many Tribal leaders, organizations and stakeholders over the last several months—your voices helped shape this legislation. I hope my colleagues in the House of Representatives quickly pass the bill and the President signs the bill into law so we can put our work into action,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski.

Senator Murkowski also delivered a floor speech on the bipartisan infrastructure package, click here to watch her statement on the included tribal provisions.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes significant investments in Native communities, such as:

Major Investments in Indian Health Service’s Sanitation Facilities Construction Program Provides $3.5 billion in technical and financial assistance to American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages through IHS for cooperative development and construction of safe water, wastewater, and solid waste systems and related support facilities. This unprecedented investment in IHS sanitation will clear all known project needs.

Funds Congressionally Authorized Indian Water Settlements Provides $2.5 billion to fund the remaining portions of the authorized discretionary funding for congressionally approved Indian water settlements.  The federal government is involved in Indian water settlements pursuant to its trust responsibilities.  Funding these settlements will allow tribes to pursue authorized projects to access and develop their water resources.

Building Climate Change Resilience in Native Communities Provides $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program for adaptation project planning and development and community relocation for tribes contending with climate change impacts. 

Connecting Indian Communities by Investing in Rural Broadband Provides an additional $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and extends the expenditure deadline. Creates a $1 billion Middle Mile program for the construction, improvement or acquisition of middle-mile infrastructure. The Middle Mile program includes a process for designating Tribally unserved or underserved areas in consultation with Tribes and Native entities. The bill creates a Digital Equity Competitive Grant Program, which includes a 5 percent set-aside to award grants to, or enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with, Indian Tribes, Alaska Native entities, and Native Hawaiian organizations. Additional funding is provided for the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which subsidizes broadband service for eligible households.

Cleaning Up Orphan and Legacy Wells Directs funds to the Department of the Interior to clean up orphan wells on public lands and legacy wells in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and to fund state grants for cleanup of wells on state and private lands. This includes over $2 billion for State grants, $250 million for federal lands, and $150 million for a new grant program to help tribes cleanup orphan wells. Across the country, over 56,000 documented orphaned oil and gas wells can leak methane, contaminate groundwater and create other safety risks.  Federal agencies and states responsible for plugging and reclaiming these wells have had limited funding to address this health hazard.

Reducing Wildfire Risk and Enhancing Native Communities Investments through hazardous fuel reduction projects, forest restoration and community defense grants to reduce wildfire risks, provide firefighter training to Native Village crews, Native Youth Public Land Corps and other programs focused on ecosystem restoration and tribal protection. 

Investments in BIA Irrigation, Power, and Sanitation Includes $250 million for construction, repair, improvement, and maintenance of irrigation and power systems, safety of dams, water sanitation, and other facilities.

Tribal Transportation Investments – Includes $2.9 billion for the Tribal Transportation Program, $110 million for the Tribal Transportation Facility Bridge set-aside, allows 100 percent federal share for tribal projects in the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Programs, reinstates and provides funding for the Tribal High Priority Projects program at $30 million a year for a total of $150 million, increases the set-aside amount for the Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund from 2 percent to 4 percent, and expedited environmental review for tribal transportation safety projects.

For a list of tribal provisions that were included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, click here.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska