Answers to common customer questions about requesting and paying for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) irrigation services are included below.
Regulations and rules for the BIA Irrigation Program are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Chapter 25 Section 171 (25 CFR 171). Links to relevant portions of the CFR are included throughout this page.
The Indian Affairs Manual (50 IAM 1) identifies the authorities, policies, and responsibilities for the irrigation program at the BIA.
If you own or lease land within the service area of a BIA irrigation project, you may request service by submitting two forms to your local irrigation project:
- Request for Customer Information, which provides the irrigation project with your legal name, business name, mailing address, and taxpayer identification number (TIN).
- Request Irrigation Services, which provides the irrigation project with information about the location, size, and irrigation needs of your land.
Updating Your Information
If you receive BIA irrigation services and:
- your address has changed,
- you have sold your land, or
- there is a new lease on your land,
update your contact information by submitting a Request for Customer Information form to your local irrigation offices as soon as possible to avoid billing errors.
If you own or lease land within an irrigation project, whether you request water or not, the BIA will assess you annual fees to administer, operate, maintain, and rehabilitate irrigation project facilities.
Your bill includes charges for operation and maintenance (O&M) or construction costs for the current irrigation season.
How Irrigation Charges Are Calculated
Your irrigation service bill amount due is calculated by multiplying (1) your share in your allotment, farm unit, or Tribal unit by (2) its acreage and by (3) the rate for the project as shown on your bill.
The irrigation project may enforce a minimum billing charge or storage fee, or you may have entered into an agreement for a surcharge. In these cases, the formula will not apply.
Irrigation Rate Changes
Public notice of irrigation project O&M rates are published annually in the Federal Register. You may also contact your local irrigation project for rate information.
Final rates for the 2023 calendar year for all irrigation projects were published in the Federal Register in “Rate Adjustments for Indian Irrigation Projects” (Vol. 87, No. 145, July 29, 2022).
Billing and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs)
The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996 (DCIA) requires the BIA and other government agencies to collect taxpayer identification numbers from anyone with whom they do business. To comply with this law, the BIA asks for the social security numbers (SSNs) or TINs of irrigation project customers.
Failure to provide your TIN may result in ineligibility for irrigation service, waiver, or payment plan. If the BIA is required to file documents with the Internal Revenue Service identifying you, you are required to furnish your TIN (26 CFR 301.6109-1[b]).
Irrigation project customers who do not have a TIN, SSN, employer identification number (EIN), or other taxpayer identification number are required to obtain one. Failure to provide this information may result in a $50 fine per document filed with the IRS (26 CFR 301.6721).
What If I Can’t Pay My Bill on Time?
If you are financially unable to pay your full irrigation bill, contact your local irrigation project within 30 days of your bill’s due date to request a payment plan.
If you do not make arrangement for payment pursuant to 25 CFR 171.550, or pay your bill within 30 days after the due date, your bill will be considered past due.
Once your bill is past due, the BIA will send you a notice and assess you with the following:
- Interest at the rate established by the Secretary of the Treasury from the original due date (31 USC 3717).
- An administrative fee, as required by 31 CFR 901.9.
If your bill is unpaid 90 days after the original due date, you will be assessed a penalty charge of 6 percent per year accruing from the original due date.
Delinquent Bills with the U.S. Treasury
Unpaid irrigation service bills are forwarded to the U.S. Treasury Department for debt collection no later than 180 days after the original due date (31 CFR 901.1). Once an overdue irrigation bill has been forwarded to the U.S. Treasury Department, the BIA can no longer provide payoff balance information. The bill holder should contact the U.S. Treasury Debt Management Center toll free at 1 (888) 826-3127.
Irrigation project staff may communicate the origin of the debt such as: the original amount, why the bill was created, and why it is valid to authorized parties only. Third parties must have written authorization from the original bill holder to speak with the U.S. Treasury about another person’s or another party’s irrigation bill.
For more information, visit the U. S. Treasury Department’s Debt Management: Frequently Asked Questions.
If you are financially unable to pay your annual irrigation service bill in full, you may qualify for a payment plan (25 CFR 171.550).
To apply for a payment plan, you must contact your local irrigation office within 30 days of your irrigation bill due date to:
- Confirm that you are a landowner and your land is not leased,
- Certify you are financially unable to make a lump sum payment,
- Provide requested information, such as financial statements, consistent with 31 CFR 901.8,
- Sign a payment plan with the terms and conditions specified by the BIA.
If you are granted a payment plan you will incur administrative costs and interest beyond the annual irrigation bill in accordance with 25 CFR 171.555.
Payment plans are not available for supplemental bills, for landowners with an outstanding delinquency, or to landowners who have defaulted on a payment plan within the previous six years.
If you are filing for bankruptcy, you should ensure that any amounts owed to the BIA on the date of your petition for bankruptcy are reflected on your schedules and statement of financial affairs. If you did not include your BIA debt, you should amend those documents to reflect the debt owed to the BIA, and ensure the BIA is treated equitably under your plan. You should provide notice of the bankruptcy to your local irrigation office.
If the irrigation bill was issued after the date of your bankruptcy petition, the bill is not impacted by your bankruptcy filing and you must pay the bill.
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