Infrastructure investment; millions in federal funding earmarked for tribal dam upgrades

OGLALA, S.D. — The Oglala Dam is getting an upgrade after sitting empty for years.

“We’re announcing $29 million in funding this fiscal year for the dams program, including $22 million to repair the dam at Pine Ridge, along with six other dams across Indian country,” says Bryan Newland, assistant secretary, U.S. Dept. of Interior for Indian Affairs.

Img 2818President Kevin Killer of the Oglala Sioux Tribe says it was drained for safety reasons.

“It’s been about five years since it’s last been filled because of safety concerns here. The dam was actually – the soil beneath was unstable, so that’s why they had to drain it and make sure that people are safe in the area,” President Killer says.

It’s a welcome sight for residents.

“This is really important,” Newland says. “This infrastructure provides recreational opportunities, irrigation water, drinking water for communities. It supports local economies.”

While the tribe doesn’t get water from the reservoir, it serves another purpose.

Tyler Yellow Boy, tribal councilman for the Oglala District, says, “A lot of our people who utilize it, you know, come and fish and do the recreational things, and so when we talk about the dams, we look at it as a recreational point of view.”

President Killer says it’s important the public has a safe place to go, especially during COVID, when people were forced to gather outside.

The funding from President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure plan is addressing maintenance issues at dams across the nation.

“We’ve got more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance across the Bureau of Indian Affairs dam system, and so getting $150 million through the president’s bipartisan infrastructure law is a great shot in the arm to address that backlog,” Newland adds.

While getting the project running has to go through Tribal Council, both President Killer and Councilman Yellow Boy say people are excited, and they don’t expect much opposition.

“It’s good news and it’s something the community can look forward to now knowing that their dam was going to be fixed,” Yellow Boy says.

Both President Killer and Councilman Yellow Boy spoke about other infrastructure plans they’re addressing, including improved roads, a homeless shelter, and a treatment center.

Categories: Local News, National News, South Dakota News