Crow Tribe, Reclamation Execute Contract under Water Rights Settlement

Media Contact: Tyler Johnson, (406) 247-7609

For Release: August 30, 2012

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Bureau of Reclamation officials, including Great Plains Regional Director Michael J. Ryan, will join Crow Tribal Chairman Cedric Black Eagle and other tribal members in a signing ceremony initiating planning, design and construction of the municipal, industrial and rural water system (MR&I) for the tribe on August 30, at 10 a.m. in Billings, Mont.

"Reclamation has the important responsibility of developing infrastructure that is critical to the successful implementation of the Crow Indian Water Rights settlement," Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor said today. "We are focused on making rapid progress in Indian country, allowing tribes to realize the benefits of such settlements. This contract is a significant first step in bringing a vital water supply to the Crow people, promoting health and economic prosperity for generations."

Reclamation and the tribe completed contract negotiations for the planning, design and construction of the MR&I system this month.

It is the latest step in implementation of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 signed by President Obama which included four major water rights settlements – totaling more than $1 billion – for American Indian tribes including the Crow Nation. It authorizes the Secretary of the Interior, through Reclamation, to rehabilitate the CIP and to design and construct the MRI system.

On July 15, 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor visited the Crow Indian Reservation to participate with a crowd of 200 celebrating the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement, which will bring a cumulative total of more than $460 million to the Crow Nation to ensure safe drinking water for the reservation and rehabilitate the irrigation project.

"Reclamation is proud to partner in this effort," said Ryan. "It couldn't have been accomplished without the cooperative efforts of the tribe, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the solicitor's office, and the state of Montana. We look forward to working with these agencies in the future."

The Crow Reservation encompasses more than two million acres, and is home to roughly two-thirds of the approximately 12,000 Crow tribal members. The drinking water system on the Reservation has significant deficiencies in capacity and water quality and many tribal members must at times haul water.

The tribe desires to complete all activities and put the mandatory funding, as well as appropriated discretionary funding, in interest bearing accounts as soon as possible. Upon execution of the contract, Reclamation will be able to transfer $146 million of mandatory funding to an interest-bearing tribal account where withdrawals will be based on negotiated Annual Funding Agreements. The Act authorizes more than $378 million for the CIP and MR&I system, with a mandatory component of more than $219 million and more than $158 million of discretionary funding.

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