The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) has come out in favor of the bipartisan congressional conference report on pending legislation that would enable direct cooperation between the Army Corps of Engineers and tribes.
“The Columbia Basin tribes and the Corps have long mutually agreed that acquisition of such authority would substantially advance project expertise and efficiency and allow the Corps to meet its statutory obligations by accessing tribal expertise,” the CRITFC said in a statement, adding that the language in the relevant section, 1031, was “short and simple but will remedy prior inefficiency in projects such as cultural resources protection, water quality monitoring and lamprey passage research.”
Lamprey passage has been an issue for the tribes in the northwestern United States, to whom they are a cultural icon. Dam construction has impeded the fish’s ability to spawn.
Section 1031 “authorizes the Corps of Engineers to carry out water-related planning activities and construct water resource development projects that are located primarily within Indian country or impacts tribal resources,” the conference report stated. “Previous Water Resources Development Acts have authorized individual Tribes to carry out these activities. This section is intended to provide this authority generically so that all Tribes may benefit.”
The commission also gave a hat tip to Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, calling him “instrumental” in getting the Cooperative Agreement Authority language included in the bill that passed the Senate in 2013. The tribal organization also noted the contributions of House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Nick Rahall, who “were integral to affirming House commitment to the policy improvements.”
A final vote on the bill is pending.
“We look forward to swift passage of WRRDA in both the House and Senate and look forward to working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to quickly implement this authority,” said CRITFC Executive Director Paul Lumley in the statement.