Environment | Law | National | Politics

Blackfeet Nation asks citizens to approve water rights compact

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke with leaders of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana on March 10, 2017. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

The Blackfeet Nation is asking its citizens to vote on the tribe's long-delayed water rights compact.

After more than six years of debate, Congress ratified the agreement in December. It was added to the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act) at the insistence of Montana's Congressional delegation, including former Rep. Ryan Zinke, who is serving as the Secretary of the Interior.

Now it's up to Blackfeet citizens to decide whether to accept the deal. A referendum takes place on the reservation on April 20.

“We’re not here to tell you how to vote,” said Bill Old Chief, a former council member who presented the compact at an informational session last week, according to The Glacier Reporter, “just to get the information out. But ‘no’ isn’t good enough for me. You’ve got to tell me the reasons, and give a detailed reason why it’s not in the best interest of the tribe.”

The deal authorizes $471 million for water-related projects. Congress would still need to appropriate funds to implement the settlement. The Department of the Interior would be charged with carrying out the projects.

The state of Montana has already ratified the compact.

Read More on the Story:
Water rights, Blackfeet Water Compact & Settlement Act discussed at meeting (The Cut Bank Pioneer Press 4/5)
Blackfeet Tribe schedules meetings for upcoming Water Compact vote (KRTV 3/20)

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