(Ethete, WY) – The Director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Engineering Department testified this week in front of an influential U.S. Senate panel, telling committee members that the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s water and wastewater systems are “underfunded, outdated and at capacity.”
Director Jola WallowingBull testified at the invitation of U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Wildlife, Water & Fisheries.
Director WallowingBull, who has led the Tribal Engineering Department for seven years, said the Tribe appreciates its relationship with federal partners, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Indian Health Service and EPA.
Federal bureaucracy and cumbersome regulatory processes, however, often delay much-needed repairs and improvements – adding significant project costs and impacting the quality of services for the Arapaho people.
In at least one instance, Director WallowingBull noted that it took approximately five years to secure federal approval for a land lease on Tribal trust land. The Ethete Wellfield project was originally funded in 2014, but remains incomplete due to the federal delays and costs that increased significantly in that period of time.
“The effects of that delay, compounded by inflation, mean that every dollar we receive loses its buying power over time” testified Director WallowingBull. “We frequently run out of money for projects because of inflation-driven increased costs.”
Additional federal support would enable the Tribe to not only complete needed repairs to its water and wastewater systems, but also plan for increased demand associated with future growth and development.
“Our goal is to continue to provide safe water for our people, and we will fulfill our mission. But, we cannot do everything with the limited resources we have,” testified Director WallowingBull. “As it stands now, we are unable to focus on tomorrow’s growth and developing a master plan for the future because too many of our resources go towards the emergencies of today.
“For the longevity of the Tribe, we must have the opportunity to create a path forward, and work towards a new chapter where we may proactively plan for our future as a Tribe and a people.”