Support for Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing on Tribal Transportation Issues Under the federal SAFETY-LU Act (Transportation Act)
WHEREAS, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association (GPTCA) is composed of the elected Chairs and Presidents or their duly appointed representatives of the sovereign Indian Tribes and Nations recognized by Treaties with the United States that are within the Great Plains Region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs; and
WHEREAS, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association was formed to promote the common interests of the Great Plains sovereign Indian Tribes and their members in the states of ND, SD and Nebr.; and
WHEREAS, Good transportation systems for Tribal Nations existing on reservations that are often in isolated areas is a vital part of the infrastructure that enables the communities of these Nations to thrive; and
WHEREAS, Roads provide critical access for the communities of Tribal Nations for schools, to employment, to businesses on the reservation, and for delivery of goods and services to and from the Tribal Nation; and
WHEREAS, The United States has a fundamental trust responsibility to provide funds for good roads on reservations, and has in part fulfilled that responsibility through a set-aside that is part of the Federal highway act, the most recent version of which is known as SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Affordable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, P.L. 109-59); and
WHEREAS, The set-aside program is known as the Indian Reservation Roads program (IRR), and the critical issue within the IRR program is the formula used to divide the funds between the various Bureau of Indian Affairs Regions and then within those Regions to the various Tribal Nations; and
WHEREAS, The formula, the principal components of which are the total population of the Indian tribe, the total miles driven on roads that are part of the roads inventory of the Tribe, and the cost to construct the reservation roads, has within the past 10 years been interpreted to include roads that are not principally used by Tribal citizens, but which are part of some other jurisdiction’s road system, such as the local county, state and in some cases, even the federal government which constructs federal highways passing through or on the border of an Indian Reservation; and
WHEREAS, In addition, the data that is used in the distribution formula to allocate funds to the various Tribal Nations, including road inventory information, is often incomplete, inconsistent or inaccurate and the actual data set, called the “Road Inventory Field Data System” (RIFDS) is often misunderstood by those submitting the data; and
WHEREAS, Some of these issues are discussed and analyzed in a recent study on the roads inventory of the IRR program called “Indian Reservation Roads Program Comprehensive Inventory Report” issued by the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation in January, 2008; and
WHEREAS, Many large land-based Tribal Nations have urged the BIA to issue new regulations reflecting a formula that more closely matches the purpose of the IRR program, but the present Administration will not issue any more regulations this year and has left this issue to the next President and administration; and
WHEREAS, The result of the inconsistent application of the formula, insufficient or bad data, and road inventories that include roads that are not primarily used by the citizens of Tribal Nations has been varying amounts of funding levels for road programs for Tribal Nations, and this creates financial and other difficulties in planning for consistent road maintenance and construction of roads that are vital to each Tribal Nation’s future; and
WHEREAS, This issue needs to be addressed as a part of the effort to seek renewal of the federal highway bill, SAFETEA-LU, which expires as of September 30, 2009.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association hereby requests that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hold a hearing that will focus on issues relating to the interpretation of the present regulations relating to the allocation of funds formula under the Indian Reservations Roads program; and
NOW THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association hereby urges its member Tribal Nations to be as united as possible on the issue of development of an equitable distribution formula for roads funds, and that the Tribal Nations of United Tribes actively participate in developing the regulations needed to implement that formula, especially as legislation reauthorizing the federal highway bill is being developed; and
NOW THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that this resolution shall be the policy of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association until otherwise amended or rescinded.
Resolution No. 66-09-05-08
This resolution was enacted at a duly called meeting of the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association held at Bismarck, North Dakota on September 5, 2008 at which a quorum was present, with 9 members voting in favor, 0 members opposed, 0 members not abstaining, and 7 members not present.
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