Congress passes water infrastructure bill that includes provisions to help Wyoming and tribal communities
Recently, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) praised final passage of the bipartisan Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act by a vote of 78 to 21. The bill already passed the House of Representatives and now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The bill authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve and maintain dams, inland waterways, ports and projects to prevent flooding and ensure that communities have adequate water supplies.
“Today, Congress came together to overwhelmingly pass a bipartisan bill that will help improve water infrastructure across the country,” said Barrasso. “It also includes provisions that will specifically help communities in Wyoming and across Indian Country. I look forward to the president signing this bill into law as soon as possible.”
Barrasso, a member of the committee that authored the bill, successfully included items for Wyoming that help increase water storage, improve dam safety and irrigation in Indian Country, and prevent ice-jam flooding, especially in rural communities.
Federal water-storage facilities in the West, including Wyoming, are losing existing space due to sediment buildup. One of the Barrasso provisions in the bill will create a pilot program targeting sediment buildup in existing U.S. Army Corps and Bureau of Reclamation water-storage facilities in the Upper Missouri River Basin.
“Expanding water storage is critical in the West,” said Barrasso. “Removing and reducing sediment buildup is one way we can immediately increase water storage. That’s why the creation of the pilot project is so important. It will give federal agencies and local communities the tools they need to work together to reduce sediment buildup in federal dams in Wyoming.”
Ice jams – when frozen rivers thaw in the spring and the ice heads downstream – cause severe damage to levees.
“In Greybull, Worland and other towns across the state, ice jams are a serious public safety concern. These towns also can’t afford the out-of-control costs that come with severe flooding,” said Barrasso. “Thanks to this law, we’ll now be better equipped to develop more cost-effective and innovative ways to prevent ice jam flooding.”
Barrasso, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, was also successful in including his bill, S. 2717, the Dam Repairs and Improvements for Tribes Act of 2016 (DRIFT Act) as a provision in WIIN. It addresses the deferred maintenance needs of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) dams, and reforms tribal programs within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that focus on flood mitigation and prevention in Native communities.
Barrasso also successfully included another one of his bills, S.438, the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act (the IRRIGATE Act) as a provision in WIIN. It would help provide for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of certain Indian irrigation projects.
“These measures will help protect Native and surrounding communities from flooding, improve aging irrigation systems, clarify water rights, take land into trust for tribes, and protect and improve lives across Indian Country,” said Barrasso.