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Infrastructure bill contains billions for tribal water, roads and broadband

Navajo School Bus
San Juan County, Utah
Many unpaved roads on the Navajo Nation often become impassable after heavy rain and snowstorms. Part of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill signed into law Mon, Nov. 15 by President Joe Biden will go toward road and bridge projects in Indian Country.

Tribal leaders are applauding the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill becoming law this week. It contains a host of projects that’ll benefit roads, bridges and water initiatives in Indian Country. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law Monday at the White House flanked by tribal leaders including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. The bill will pump $11 billion into Indian Country. According to the Navajo Nation Council, it’s the largest-ever investment in tribal infrastructure.

The sweeping package creates billions in assistance grants to provide drinking water in reservation communities, and fully funds all existing tribal water rights settlements, which officials say will increase access. It’s estimated that a third of households on the Navajo Nation don’t have running water.

In addition, the bill assists with abandoned coal mine reclamation projects, and contains $2 billion to increase broadband connectivity on tribal lands where high-speed internet is often lacking.

Almost half-a-billion dollars is earmarked for climate resiliency initiatives like irrigation and power system improvements, dam safety and community relocation programs.

The spending package also funds projects to build and improve roads and bridges throughout tribal lands.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.