Environment | Politics

Blackfeet Nation welcomes movement on water rights settlement






A sign at Birch Creek on the Blackfeet Nation in Montana. Photo by Athena C / Pinterest

A bill to settle the water rights of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana is finally moving through Congress.

S.1125, the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, implements a settlement that was approved at the state level in 2009 It includes $420.6 million in projects, according to Law360.

The cost has been a major issue and questions about certain provisions have delayed consideration on Capitol Hill since the deal was first introduced in 2010. But the Senate Indian Affairs Committee finally it at a business meeting on Wednesday after lawmakers said they addressed those concerns.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Indian Affairs Committee Business Meeting February 3, 2016

"The Blackfeet Tribe is extremely pleased to have reached this historic milestone in a process that has dragged on for years," Chairman Harry Barnes said in a press release. "The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has struggled but not given up on this important piece of legislation."

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana), a co-sponsor of the bill, noted that the meeting marked the first time that the committee has advanced a new tribal water settlement in five years. There is no companion version in the House and Barnes told the Associated Press that action in that chamber will be difficult due to policies adopted by Republicans leaders.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he will be the only lawmaker who can introduce a tribal water rights settlement and only after he receives assurances from the federal government that it meets certain conditions. He outlined his position in a February 26, 2015, letter to the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior.

Get the Story:
Tribal Water Deals With $449M In Projects Clear Senate Panel (Law360 2/4)
Blackfeet water settlement clears US Senate committee (AP 2/4)
Montana tribe’s water deal clears major Senate milestone (High Country News 2/5)

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