Committee Chair, Senator John Barrasso
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs , welcomed Wyoming’s own, Mitchel T. Cottenoir, the Tribal Water Engineer for the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes of Wind River Reservation, and Harry C. Labonde, Jr., the Director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission, before the committee to testify on S.438, the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act (the IRRIGATE Act).
S.438 would hold the Federal government accountable for addressing the maintenance backlog of aging Indian irrigation projects the government initiated during the late 1800s and early 1900s in Wyoming and across the West. The IRRIGATE Act ensures the Federal government follows through on its promise to build and maintain these projects by providing $35 million each year from 2015 to 2036 to help cover the costs of operations and maintenance. This includes any structures, facilities, equipment, or vehicles used in connection with the projects.
“I also want to welcome my friends Harry LaBonde, the Director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission and Mitch Cottenoir, the Tribal Water Engineer for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes in Wyoming,” said Senator Barrasso. “Mr. Cottenoir has testified before this Committee on irrigation issues. Both witnesses are very familiar with challenges facing irrigation projects.”
During the hearing, Senator Barrasso emphasized the need for the Federal Government to honor its responsibilities to Indian Country by helping to cover the cost for the maintenance of these irrigation projects.
“These projects continue to be a very important source of income and economic development for the surrounding communities,” said Barrasso. “The Federal Government’s promise to Indian Country to build and maintain these projects needs to be fulfilled. This bill is a start in the right direction.”
Tribal Water Engineer for the Wind River Irrigation Project Michael Cottenoir testified in support of Senator Barrasso’s S.438 and the necessity of Federal funding for irrigation projects in Indian Country.
“Chairman Barrasso, Vice-Chairman Tester and members of the committee, the funding from this bill is simply vital to our efforts,” said Cottenoir. “We realize that only through our efforts, and yours, will this absolutely essential rehabilitation occur. Not only can we do this, we must do this. Chairman Barrasso, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, the Wind River Water Resource Control Board and the Office of the Tribal Water Engineer strongly endorse S. 438, the Irrigation Rehabilitation and Renovation for Indian Tribal Governments and Their Economies Act or the IRRIGATE Act .”
You can listen to Mr. Cottenoir’s entire Committee statement here.
The Director of the Wyoming Water Development Commission Harry Labonde, Jr., testified that S.438 will enable tribes in the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) to gain a much needed funding source for irrigation projects.
“We would certainly encourage you to support this bill,” said Labonde. “I can tell you that when irrigators can’t get their water in the spring time or the summer months their crops do not flourish and as a result it is a significant impact on the reservation.”
You can listen to Mr. Labonde’s entire Committee statement here and Senator Barrasso’s statement here.