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Delegation helping tribes on reservation road construction



Washington, D.C. - The Joint Shoshone-Arapaho Business Council has enlisted the aid of Wyoming's Congressional delegation to ensure that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) completes a reservation road project using proper standards.

The tribes believe that the BIA and Terricon, its material testing contractor, have not performed the necessary testing and remediation work to ensure that a paving project along six miles of 17-mile road between Hines Corner and Ethete will perform up to its 25-year design. The tribes, who have their own materials testing laboratory staffed by personnel certified by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, also complained that they were unfairly denied the contract to test the road.

In response, U.S. Sens. Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi and Rep. Barbara Cubin have agreed to help forward data on the road to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) testing experts for their review and recommendations. The delegation asked Kevin Gover, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Indian Affairs, who serves as director of the BIA in an Aug. 25 letter to support FHWA review of the testing and direct the Billings, Montana BIA office to grant an appeal by the tribes for a hearing on the denial of the road testing contract.

"The tribes are concerned that the BIA hired a non-certified quality control engineer at a higher cost and a third party consultant, Terricon, to affirm that the road was ready to pave despite the tribes' concerns about the quality of the roadbase as evidenced by the density test results," the delegation wrote.

One specific concern the tribes and delegation have about the testing is that it did not account for the close proximity of an irrigation canal and high water table.

"This road is a vital route for emergency services and a vital east-west route that is important to the tribes' economic development efforts," Thomas, Enzi and Cubin wrote. "We, along with the tribes, believe that any testing to ensure that the road will perform as designed is in the best interest of the tribes and the BIA, since they will not have to perform emergency repair and replacement work before the end of the designed life span."

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A copy of the delegation letter follows:



The Honorable Kevin Gover
Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Indian Affairs
Department of the Interior
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Assistant Secretary Gover:

We are writing about a matter on the Wind River Indian Reservation that has been brought to our attention by the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Tribes concerning a road construction project (the Hines Corner-Ethete project) currently being undertaken by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Tribes are concerned about the quality of the work being performed on the project. The Tribes, despite the assurances of the BIA and the BIA's materials testing contractor, Terricon, that the subgrade is adequate, are troubled by the results of two rounds of testing, the first round was performed between May, 1999 and November, 1999 and the second round was between April, 2000 and July, 2000 on the subgrade and base. The Tribes are concerned that the results of the two tests showing the failure of 68 percent of the 103 samples taken in the first round density tests and 43 percent of the 336 samples failed in the second round of testing. The test records also show that only 14 subgrade density tests were performed in the first round of testing on the six mile project. Of those 14 subgrade tests, 12 failed showing that the BIA had not corrected deficiencies in the subgrade. This concerns the Tribes since this road lies next to an unlined irrigation canal and the testing did not account for the close proximity of the canal and the usually high water table that is present during years with normal rainfall. The Tribes believe that both the BIA and Terricon, in their haste to finish this project have not performed the necessary testing and remediation work to ensure that the road will perform as designed. As a result, the Joint Shoshone-Arapaho Business Council passed a resolution on July 12, 2000 stating that all future roads constructed on the Wind River Indian Reservation meet the standards set by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). For those reasons, the Tribes have contacted our offices for our assistance in having the testing records and results reviewed by materials testing experts at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for their analysis and conclusions. We are forwarding to your office copies of the testing reports in question and we are also forwarding a copy to the FHWA for their analysis.

The Tribes, who have their own materials testing laboratory staffed by AASHTO certified Tribal members, also have concerns about the way that the Bureau of Indian Affairs Regional Office in Billings, Montana denied the Tribes' request to enter into a P.L. 93-638 contract to perform sampling and materials testing on the subgrade portion of the road. The Tribes are concerned that the BIA hired a non-certified quality control engineer at a higher cost and a third party consultant, Terricon, to affirm that the road was ready to pave despite the Tribes' concerns about the quality of the roadbase as evidenced by the density test results. The letter received by the Joint Business Council from the Billings, Montana BIA office states that "it is not in the best interest of the tribes and the BIA" to conduct destructive testing of the subgrade. The Tribes made the request to contract in order to ensure that the road would perform for the 25 year design period and meet the needs of the Tribal members who live along the road. This road is a vital route for emergency services and a vital east-west route that is important to the Tribes' economic development efforts. We, along with the Tribes, believe that any testing to ensure that the road will perform as designed is in the best interest of the Tribes and the BIA, since they will not have to perform emergency repair and replacement work before the end of the designed life span. We request that you direct the Billings, Montana BIA office to grant the Tribes' request for an on-the-record appeal hearing regarding the P.L. 93-638 contract denial.

In conclusion, we are asking you to support our request for a review of the road subgrade testing data and conclusions by the FHWA and to direct the Billings, Montana BIA office to grant the Tribes' appeal and hearing request.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We await your timely response to our request. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our offices.

Sincerely,

Michael B. Enzi
United States Senator

Craig Thomas
United States Senator

Barbara Cubin
Member of Congress