USACE urged to improve partnership with tribal communities

Two members of Congress serving on House committees dealing with water resources are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve its relationship with tribal communities as they work to resolve local water resources issues.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, D-CA, chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, reminded Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor in their letter of Friday, Feb. 18 that the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 included provisions aimed at fostering greater coordination between the Corps and Indian tribes, and to address challenges tribes face in partnering with the Corps to resolve local water resources challenges.

Section 118 of WRDA 2020 authorized the Corps to work with rural and economically disadvantaged communities, including tribal communities, to develop feasibility studies for flood risk reduction and hurricane and storm damage reduction projects at 100 percent federal cost share, they said.

They urged the Corps to consider testimony received by the subcommittee, including adjusting cost share requirements on Corps projects for tribes and disadvantaged communities, specifically for environmental infrastructure projects.

The subcommittee also received testimony urging a designated staff member as a tribal liaison for each Corps district to increase government-to-government consultation, to ensure tribes are made aware of ongoing and future Corps activities, and to address tribal concerns.