Ten years ago, the government of New Mexico realized that the tribal communities of the State had little to no access to basic modern water and energy systems.
In response, former Gov. Bill Richardson signed the Tribal Infrastructure Act into law.
The law requires that the state allocate five percent of its estimated oil and gas severance tax, usually ranging from between 9 and 16 million dollars annually, for use by the Tribal Infrastructure Fund.
Many ethnic groups have benefited from this fund over the last ten years. Other states are now looking at the great benefits of having such a law.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports:
“This year Ohkay Owingeh also received $476,500 for construction for waterline improvements. The waterline in the pueblo was installed in the early 1960s. Tribal officials explain that should the existing waterline fail they are not repairable – which would cause hundreds of people in the pueblo to be without water for a long period. A reliable water delivery system is critical to the safety of the residents.
“It will bring us safe drinking water and fire suppression. If we had a fire now we don’t have water lines that have the capacity to put out a fire,” “The basic human need of water, most people don’t think about it when they live in the city. If we don’t start replacing these lines our members won’t even have access to water.”
New Mexico is definitely setting a standard for surrounding states like Arizona and others who are considering the infrastructure needs of their tribal communities.
Inframanage.com notes the Heather Himmelberger and her team at the Southwest Environmental Finance Centre at the University of New Mexico have assisted New Mexico tribal communities with on-going support and infrastructure asset management capacity building.
This work by Heather and her team, with the funds available from New Mexico, are assisting the States tribal communities to build a sustainable infrastructure platform going forward.