Indian Issues:

Compensation Claims Analyses Overstate Economic Losses

RCED-91-77: Published: May 21, 1991. Publicly Released: May 21, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the economic analyses supporting the Garrison Unit Joint Tribal Advisory Committee's (JTAC) recommendation that Indian tribes at the Fort Berthold Reservation and Standing Rock Reservation receive additional financial compensation for land the federal government acquired in 1949 and 1958 for a water resources project, focusing on: (1) the adequacy of the analyses conducted by tribal consultants; and (2) alternative methods of establishing a basis for financial compensation.

GAO found that: (1) the consultants overestimated the tribes' economic losses, since they made overly optimistic assumptions about the tribes' economic condition prior to the loss of their land; (2) neither consultant reduced the estimate of additional compensation by the total amount that Congress previously appropriated for the acquired lands; and (3) an alternative approach for considering additional compensation would be to consider the difference between the amount of compensation the tribes believed was warranted at the time the land was taken and the compensation appropriated by Congress.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Legislation (P.L. 102-575) was passed that provides compensation of $239.8 million. This amount is within the range GAO had suggested and $119.8 million less than the minimum amount recommended by JTAC.

    Matter: If Congress decides that additional compensation for the tribes is warranted, Congress should not rely on the JTAC recommendation for additional financial compensation.


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