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Branch of Irrigation and Power

 

Irrigation

The goal of the irrigation program is to improve the management of land and natural resource assets through the delivery of water consistent with applicable State and Federal law, in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner. In 2008, the updated Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Vol 1, Vol 2) , Part 171: Irrigation Operation and Maintenance became effective. It included new provisions which allow irrigation projects to be more productive by bringing idle farmland into production due to incentive agreements for farmers for operations and maintenance (O&M) charge forgiveness for up to three years if they improve their lands. 

The legal framework for Indian irrigation projects can be found in 25 CFR 171, and applies to those who own or lease land within an irrigation project where the BIA assess fees and collect monies to administer, operate, maintain, and rehabilitate project facilities. 

At the BIA's Great Plains, Northwest, Pacific, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, and Western regions, the irrigation staff provide oversight and technical support to irrigation projects and systems. At the 15 revenue generating irrigation projects, staff provide the actual O&M, except at Duck Valley, which is operated and maintained by the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes under a self-governance funding agreement. 

At the BIA's Navajo Regional Office, irrigation staff provide oversight of the Navajo Indian Irrigation Project (NIIP), including the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (Public Law 93-638) O&M contract, and Tribal Priority Allocations funds for on-farm development and operations of the farm laboratory; all land acquisitions, exchanges and withdrawals not specifically assigned to the US Bureau of Reclamation; and environmental compliance issues during construction of the NIIP (monitoring runoff as part of Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act). At the NIIP, O&M of the irrigation project is the responsibility of the BIA, which funds the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry (NAPI), a farming and agribusiness enterprise of the Nation to develop an agricultural economy on NIIP lands. The NAPI also farms the lands in this project.

The BIA owns and operates, in full or in part, the following revenue-generating irrigation projects: Blackfeet, Colorado River, Crow, Flathead, Fort Belknap, Fort Hall, Fort Peck, Pine River, San Carlos, Uintah, Walker River, Wapato, and Wind River. Currently, the irrigation program serves approximately 25,000 water users and irrigates over 780,000 acres of land.

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Power

The goal of the power program is to reliably and efficiently deliver electrical power to authorized power consumers and users by operating, maintaining, and rehabilitating power system infrastructure on each project including: power generating facilities, power substations, electrical switching stations, transmission lines, distribution lines and deteriorated infrastructures. The BIA is working towards a single power billing, collection, and debt management system, which will allow the power project to maintain a business approach to billing and collection, while following all Federal financial policies.

The legal framework for Indian power utilities can be found in 25 CFR 175: Indian Electric Power Utilities. The purpose of this part is to regulate the electric power utilities administered by the BIA.

The power program provides oversight and limited technical assistance for power projects in BIA regions. Power projects provide generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical services to customers in their service area. Power projects currently provide over 38,000 customers with electrical serves and generates $73 million in annual revenue.

At the Northwest and Western regions, irrigation staff provide oversight and limited support to the three BIA power projects. The Regional Offices do not have any staff dedicated solely to the power program; therefore, regional irrigation engineers are the technical liaisons for all power projects.

At two of the three revenue generating power projects, BIA power project staff provide the actual O&M for the distribution systems. The third BIA-owned power project is Mission Valley Power at the Flathead Indian Reservation, which is contracted to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes under a P.L. 93-638 contract. 

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Hydroelectric Licensing

The power program is involved with developing licensing (and re-licensing) conditions consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's authority under the Federal Power Act (16 U.S.C. § 791 et seq.) for the production and utilization of Indian reservations impacted by private hydroelectric power operations that are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Impacts to Indian reservations include: occupation of land, flood inundation, erosion, destruction of fisheries, damage to water quality, and harm to other trust resources. Licensing (and re-licensing) conditions must be supported by material fact and are subject to appeal under provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. § 15801), which further amended the Federal Power Act to extend FERC's jurisdiction. Once a hydroelectric power operation license is implemented, BIA (power program) staff must monitor, implement, and enforce the license conditions. 

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