Indian Programs:

BIA and Indian Tribes Are Taking Action to Address Dam Safety Concerns

RCED-92-50: Published: Feb 11, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed dam safety on Indian reservations, focusing on: (1) the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) progress in implementing the Department of the Interior's Safety of Dams (SOD) Program; and (2) whether BIA is making efforts to resolve problems limiting program progress.

GAO found that: (1) BIA has failed to fulfill its SOD program responsibilities to address or identify potential dam safety deficiencies in a timely manner due to limited staff resources, time spent encouraging tribes to enter into dam management contracts, the lack of an adequate management information system, a temporary diversion in priorities, and limited oversight of field office activities; (2) in response to the Interior Inspector General's 1989 report, Congress authorized funding for additional staff for dam safety activities and instructed Interior not to direct BIA program funds to fire suppression activities; (3) to enhance overall SOD program management, Interior plans to establish recordkeeping and information-reporting requirements to obtain needed program status information from area offices; (4) as of July 1991, BIA has contracted or negotiated contracts with tribes to manage SOD program activities at 55 of the 67 BIA priority dams and corrective actions were under way at 44 of the 53 dams that the Bureau of Reclamation had inspected for safety; and (5) Interior cited inadequate BIA progress in fulfilling SOD program objectives as the reason it proposed to transfer BIA program funding and SOD program responsibilities to Reclamation in its fiscal year 1991 and 1992 budget requests. GAO believes that, considering its proposal to transfer program responsibilities, Interior should examine how the transfer will: (1) impact federal Indian self-determination policies; and (2) improve Interior's ability to fulfill SOD program objectives.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An information system consistent with GAO's recommendation has been developed and is being used.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to develop and put in place a recordkeeping and reporting system for the SOD Program that will provide the information needed to effectively manage program activities and measure progress in completing the corrective action process according to established requirements and priorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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