The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-South Pacific Division and Navajo Nation signed an agreement intended to improve USACE’s support to Navajo Nation at Window Rock, Arizona, July 6.
The agreement was signed by U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Antoinette Gant, commanding general, USACE-South Pacific Division, and Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren.
“With this framework provided for intergovernmental support, the South Pacific Division looks forward to assisting the Navajo Nation by collectively addressing the Nation’s highest priorities and delivering bold solutions to serve and strengthen their communities,” Gant said.
Services and any goods which the Corps may provide to the Navajo Nation under this agreement include full or partial services in the areas of planning, design, engineering, consultation, technical support and training, and construction activities.
The purpose of the agreement is to establish a mutual framework governing the respective responsibilities of the Parties for the provision of goods and services for NN projects, leveraging the Chief’s Economy Act. 10 U.S.C. § 7036(e).
The signing puts a formal agreement in place to allow the Navajo Nation to utilize specific services on a cost reimbursable basis with all of the Corps’ districts under the South Pacific Division.
The South Pacific Division (SPD) is working to put a portion of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law monies to good use by supporting their regulatory program through training, development of programmatic tools, hiring of new Regional Technical Specialists (RTSs), and tribal nation outreach initiatives.
The funding also supports hiring of new staff to establish and maintain a Regional Technical Support and Execution Center (TREC) to support execution, increased agility, and consistency in program delivery, specifically for BIL projects. SPD is taking advantage of the flexibility they were offered when standing up their respective TREC.
“What this means for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the opportunity to develop the relationships, processes, and technology that will enable USACE Regulatory Program to continue to effectively deliver decisions that balance natural resource protection with the need for progress and economic growth,” says Tori White, SPD’s chief of Operations and Regulatory Division.
“Each USACE Division was given flexibility in establishing their TREC by USACE headquarters,” added White. “So, SPD hired a workload/program manager and team leader at the Division level to oversee the Center and lead a team of regulators in implementing and delivering BIL projects.”
White says SPD is unique in that it has leveraged its Regional Technical Specialists (RTS), or high-level subject matter experts within a district, to provide a minimum 25 percent support to the region. SPD also pulled its existing RTSs into the TREC to ensure agile “support center” staff to provide execution and technical expertise across region.
This support was also extended through the integration of their RTSs from the Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise - another distinctive SPD focus. The TNTCX provides a cost-effective administrative tool to improve USACE’s quality and effectiveness in delivering USACE missions and Federal Trust responsibilities to Federally recognized tribes.
“With 182 federally recognized Tribes in SPD’s AOR, having a dedicated Regional Regulatory Tribal Liaison is essential for SPD to meet its tribal trust responsibilities effectively and efficiently,” said White. “So, SPD pulled its a tribal liaison from the Albuquerque District Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise to support not only the TREC but the entire regional regulatory program.”
Mark Gilfillan, a senior tribal liaison with USACE SPD, sees the value and long-term benefits of this initiative by the division.
“Knowing that SPD covers an area of at least 10 states and 182 Tribal Nations, the tribal land areas within SPD AOR alone constitute more than 50% of all Indian Tribes within the contiguous 48 states;” said Gilfillan. “Therefore, throughout all of our SPD Missions and business line areas, there is a great need and an advantage to having a RTS for tribal actions and attention. The TNTCX is vital to the successful management of our relationships with Tribal Nations, which helps us maintain and operate key infrastructure projects that contribute to the Nation’s economy, environment, safety, and quality of life - now and in the future.”
Gilfillan also sees how the integration of the RTSs is critical to serving this often-unseen community and relishes in his opportunity to be part of this change.
“My favorite part is providing tools to meet the task, within the given timeframes, procedures, program limits, and work regimen, we all have today. However, as a tribal liaison, it is equally important to bring forward the tribal concerns and needs for consideration. Tribal communities are often some of the most deserving, but underserved areas of our Nation.”
The TNTCX is currently preparing a scope of work for SPD to address strategic tribal communications, outreach, and treaty rights including development of a GIS based tool for Regulators, adds White.
SPD is also developing an Environmental Justice Principles for the Regional Regulatory Program. Environmental Justice is the fair and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, national origin, or income regarding the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies, with no group bearing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms and risks.
“These initiatives align with SPD commander’s priorities and the SPD vision for delivering bold solutions to serve and strengthen all communities,” said White.