USACE’s Albuquerque District Hosts Tribal Nations Open House, Talks Big Policy Updates

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Albuquerque District held a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center here, June 25.

More than 30 representatives from 18 different Tribal Nations attended the event, which focused on strengthening partnerships and providing updates about recent policy changes and how USACE can apply those updates to better support Tribal Nations.

Lt. Col. Jerre Hansbrough, commander, USACE-Albuquerque District, speaks during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024.
Lt. Col. Jerre Hansbrough, commander, USACE-Albuquerque District, speaks during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024. COURTESY PHOTO

A point of emphasis for the open house was to talk about recent changes to USACE’s Tribal Consultation Policy, which was updated in December of 2023 to include authorization for USACE to do cultural resource protection work under the Tribal Partnership Program.

advertisement

“I’m excited about some pretty major changes within the Corps of Engineers to our policy and our guidance across our different programs that will affect our delivery, in what I would say are very positive ways toward service to Tribal Nations,” said Jeremy Decker, tribal liaison, USACE-Albuquerque District.

Some other key USACE policy updates include a new requirement for every district across the Corps of Engineers to have a tribal liaison on staff, changes to the Tribal Partnership Program cost-share waiver distribution, and guidance regarding early consultation with Tribes.

Chris Zayas (right), acequia program manager, USACE-Albuquerque District, speaks with a participant during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024
Chris Zayas (right), acequia program manager, USACE-Albuquerque District, speaks with a participant during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024. COURTESY PHOTO

“There were a series of listening sessions in 2022 and 2023, where all 574 federally recognized tribes were invited to provide input so policy makers could better understand what issues tribes are having and how to improve collaboration,” Decker said.

“It’s the start of what I’m hoping is a larger culture change within the agency,” he said. “There is a much greater emphasis on speaking with tribes and doing more than just on-the-site coordination, but really collaborating and consulting from the start in a way that’s helpful and meaningful.”

Jeremy Decker, tribal liaison, USACE-Albuquerque District, speaks during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024.
Jeremy Decker, tribal liaison, USACE-Albuquerque District, speaks during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024. COURTESY PHOTO

During the event, Tribal Nations participants had an opportunity to meet with USACE-Albuquerque District representatives from several functional areas including Civil Works, Emergency Management, Environmental, Contracting, Regulatory, and the Tribal Nations Technical Center of Expertise.

The opportunity to talk with subject matter experts directly was helpful for participants to seek information about their unique challenges, said Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch, Navajo Nation Chinle Chapter President.

advertisement

“We had a recent emergency flooding event just last year in Chinle so we’ve been working closely with the Corps and their Advance Measures response and also their flood mitigation technical assistance,” Jumbo-Fitch said. “The reason why we came here is to further review what additional options are available. We’re mainly interested in the Civil Works Division and what we can do to eliminate the risk of severe flooding.”

Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch, Navajo Nation Chinle Chapter President, speaks with USACE-Albuquerque District personnel during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024.
Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch, Navajo Nation Chinle Chapter President, speaks with USACE-Albuquerque District personnel during a Tribal Nations Open House at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 25, 2024. COURTESY PHOTO

“Hearing the presentations is good because we did get a lot of information about what programs could apply to our projects,” Jumbo-Fitch said. “But working with the booths is really interesting because they have the experts that can give more specific guidance toward what programs we can apply for, so the opportunity to talk more one-on-one with those people is a great benefit.”

USACE-Albuquerque District intends to do more open house events in future to keep Tribal Nations informed of new policy updates and to further facilitate early collaboration and communication.