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Increasing funding for Rights-of-Way processing is key to transportation infrastructure

NCAI 2011 (National Congress of American Indians, “SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS HEARING: Oversight hearing on tribal transportation: Paving the way for Jobs, Infrastructure, and Safety in Native Communities,” Sep 15,

Congress has the opportunity to significantly enhance efficiency and cost-savings in infrastructure investment by requiring BIA to maintain adequate rights-of-way (ROW) records. Currently, BIA has no streamlined process to assist Tribes in securing proof of ROW quickly or in processing trust allotted land ROW applications in a short, defined timeline. Tribes preparing infrastructure improvements too frequently face delays and additional costs in their project administration because the BIA lack records of rights-of-way the Agency acquired, disposed of, or otherwise transferred long ago. For example, right now the Oglala Sioux Tribe has been working on securing BIA assistance to examine rights of way in the BIA’s Land Title Records Office for a 21 mile project on Pine Ridge; to date, BIA has not been helpful. This echoes examples for numerous tribes when attempting to develop road projects on tribal lands. And, the timeline in receiving ROW varies depending on many variables including ownership of the road (State, county, BIA, or tribal route), the length in miles of the project, the reservation, whether the project crosses fee, restricted fee, allotted, or trust lands, whether the project is new construction or reconstruction of an existing route, the agency or regional office involved, the tribe involved, etc

To mitigate delays, NCAI recommends this Committee and Congress to require that BIA respond to a tribe's request for right-of-way documentation for routes on its priority construction list within 120 days. If the BIA lacks right-of-way documentation, the BIA - and not the tribe - should be responsible for the costs associated with obtaining enforceable rights-of-way. To fulfill this objective, NCAI proposes that Congress launch a $10 million initiative for the Department of Interior to catalogue, organize, update and computerize right-of-way documentation.

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