One year ago, President Biden signed the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law into law—a once-in-a-generation investment in America’s infrastructure and competitiveness.
Through the $28.1 billion allocated for the Department of the Interior, we are working to restore critical habitats, address the drought crisis, reduce the risk of wildland fire, help communities and Tribes prepare for extreme weather events, create good-paying jobs, and revitalize local economies.
“This Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes a down payment on ensuring that future generations have clean air, drinkable water, fertile soil, and an overall quality of life that is currently threatened by the worsening climate crisis,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Over the last year, it has helped us put significant resources into the hands of local communities to meet their everyday challenges. “
Water is essential to feeding families, growing crops, sustaining wildlife and the environment, and powering agricultural businesses. Unfortunately, the climate crisis has created drought conditions in the west that continue to worsen, leading to historically low water allocations. The Infrastructure Law provides a historic $8.3 billion for the Bureau of Reclamation to address water and drought challenges and invest in our nation’s western water and power infrastructure.
For example, a $75 million investment will enable the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System – which serves over 350,000 residents in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa -- to be completed, delivering clean drinking water to families and farmers across the region. Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo joined a groundbreaking event for the project in August, where officials said that without funding from the Law, the project would have taken another decade to complete. In September, Assistant Secretary Trujillo traveled to El Paso, Texas where another investment from the Law is supporting the construction of one of the first advanced water purification facilities in the country, to process water from nearby golf courses, parks and farms into up to 10 million gallons a day of safe drinking water.
By boosting the innovative water recycling program run by Reclamation, the Law is contributing to countless other local projects all across the country to support water reuse and tackle western drought – replacing outdated water meters in Greeley, Colorado, building new water pipelines in southern Idaho, and expanding water storage from Montana to California.
Resources for wildfire resilience are helping fire crews and forest managers complete fuels management projects on nearly 2 million acres of land to reduce the risk of wildland fire. More than 3,800 Department wildland firefighters are receiving a temporary pay raise, along with needed health, mental wellness and safety resources.
During a townhall with Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau, a Bureau of Land Management wildland firefighter from Carson City said the pay increase has allowed firefighters to spend more time with family and take care of their mental health, and that workers he knows who were going to retire decided to stay given the new benefits.
As climate change drives harsher heat waves and more volatile weather, the threat of wildfires is only exacerbated -- making these new resources for wildland firefighters and fire prevention and suppression more important than ever.
The law makes the largest investment in cleaning up legacy pollution in American history. With hundreds of thousands of orphaned oil and gas wells across the country, which leak toxic gases and harm local communities, the Department has begun work to close and remediate these sites.
A $4.7 billion infusion of funding will help states, Tribes and federal land managers reclaim harder to reach and more costly projects they otherwise would not have been able to address. The Department this year has made $1.15 billion in funding available to states and allocated $33 million to clean up 277 well sites in national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and on other public lands.
Secretary Haaland recently visited New Mexico to see how orphaned oil and gas wells are harming local communities. One of the first wells the state has plugged using Infrastructure Law funds is located 1,000 feet from residences, and is leaking significant amounts of the potentially deadly gas hydrogen sulfide.
The Law is also providing $11.3 billion to remediate abandoned mine lands, which left unaddressed pose environmental hazards to local communities, creating flooding and sinkhole risks and harming wildlife. Once restored, these sites will create jobs, revitalize economic activity, advance outdoor recreation opportunities and more.
Resources from the Infrastructure Law are restoring rivers across the country, working to remove 100 barriers and reopen 5,015 stream miles just from this year’s funding alone.
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz visited the South Fork Tieton River in Yakima, Washington, where one of these projects will ensure the recovery and migration of salmon which are vital economically and ceremonially for the Yakama Nation. Removal of two dams in Sabattus, Maine, also funded by the Law, will not only conserve the riverbank and protect adult alewife fish, but will reduce flooding risks to nearby homes, businesses and infrastructure and lower flood insurance costs for riverside properties.
Work to restore the Delaware River watershed is expected to create new jobs, engage over 200 volunteers in conservation efforts and prevent 84,000 pounds of sediment from entering tributaries of the river. Department leaders visited this project site in August to see how the investments will benefit the entire region. Other projects are funding local partnerships to safeguard wildlife, reduce the threat of wildfire and expand outdoor recreation access.
The Law also makes critical investments to support and partner with Tribal communities, including by repairing aging dams and water sanitation systems in Indian Country, delivering clean, reliable drinking water, and supporting community-driven relocation and climate resilience efforts for Tribes most at risk from climate change.
In May, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland traveled to Kivalina, Alaska. Situated on a barrier reef island between the Kivalina River and the Chukchi Sea, the native village is threatened by the impacts of the climate crisis, including persistent erosion, flooding and permafrost degradation. Kivalina will benefit from new investments from the Infrastructure Law to help Tribal communities build climate resilience, including through ocean and coastal management and relocation of threatened infrastructure.
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton visited the Fort Peck Dry Prairie Regional Water System in Montana this summer, where other investments from the Law are advancing construction of the rural water system, in order to bring clean, reliable water to the Fort Peck Reservation and nearby rural communities.
Resources in scientific innovation this year have supported 11 airborne geophysical surveys and 23 mapping and mine waste projects through the U.S. Geological Survey. These investments will help improve our understanding of domestic critical mineral resources, a key step in securing a reliable and sustainable supply of the critical minerals that power everything from household appliances and electronics to clean energy technologies like batteries and wind turbines.
To learn more about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and where historic investments are being allocated, visit the Investing in America’s Infrastructure priority page.