'Monumental': Navajo Nation top leaders welcome Biden infrastructure bill signing

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Top leaders of the Navajo Nation are lauding President Joe Biden for signing the bipartisan infrastructure bill into law, welcoming the action as a benefit for Indian Country.

Biden signed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will upgrade the nation's roads, bridges, water systems and broadband on Nov. 15.

More than $11 billion is earmarked to help tribes with transportation projects, energy development, broadband deployment, climate resiliency, natural resource management, environmental remediation, and water and sanitation facilities construction.

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"By signing this infrastructure bill into law, President Biden has sent a clear message to sovereign nations around the country that we are a top priority. … Over $11 billion in new infrastructure projects will be funded around Indian Country to begin construction on broadband internet lines, roadways, bridges and water pipelines," Speaker Seth Damon said in a statement.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, left, meets President Joe Biden after the Nov. 15 signing ceremony for the infrastructure bill at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez was among those who gathered on the South Lawn of the White House for the signing ceremony.

"It was truly an honor to be invited to the White House to represent the Navajo people for this monumental signing of the infrastructure bill, which will invest more than $11 billion in Indian Country for transportation, broadband, energy, water and sanitation facilities and climate resiliency," Nez said in a statement.

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Tribes will see additional funding from the bill through various federal agencies and departments, but major highlights for Indian Country are:

  • $2.5 billion to complete all authorized Indian water rights settlements, including $214 million for the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement.
  • $3 billion for the Tribal Transportation Program over five years with an additional $925 million for the Tribal Transportation Facility Bridges program over five years as supplemental appropriations.
  • $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The provision also extends the deadlines for use of funds, removes the requirement that funds can only be used during the COVID-19 pandemic and allows for new and subsequent funding rounds for additional appropriations.
  • $3.5 billion over five years for improvements and construction of Indian Health Service sanitation facilities.
From left, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Lewis attend the Nov. 15 signing ceremony for the infrastructure bill at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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