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Supporting Tribal Nations

Contact: Dan DuBray, 202-513-0574


In FY 2016, Reclamation will enhance support of tribal nations, most notably through the establishment of an Indian Water Rights Settlement account. Further, in FY 2016, Reclamation continues to undertake a variety of other water-related activities to support Tribal Nations. These activities include projects and actions to implement Indian water rights settlements, technical assistance to tribes, and ecosystem restoration and rural water projects with a tribal nexus. A summary of the Indian Water Rights Settlements account and a list of other projects and programs benefiting Tribes follow.

Indian Water Rights Settlements Account and Projects:

The FY 2016 Budget proposes $112.5 million for Indian Water Rights Settlements (IWRS), in a new account of the same name. This represents a significant increase (25% or $22.5 million) from the FY 2015 enacted level of $90 million for the same projects. In FY 2016, funding priority was given to those settlements whose mandated completion dates would be most in jeopardy without it.

Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act (MT)

Title IV of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 provides for two major construction projects and provides $219.8 million of mandatory funds and authorizes for appropriation $158.4 million of discretionary funds for their construction.

• Rehabilitation and Improvement of the Crow Irrigation Project (CIP).

• Design and Construction of the Municipal, Rural, & Industrial System (MR&I). In FY 2016, $12.8 million is requested for the Crow settlement.

Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Act (NM)

Title V of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 authorizes the transfer of $16 million in mandatory funds, and authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Interior an additional $20 million for deposit into a non-interest bearing Taos Settlement Fund between fiscal years 2011 and 2016. Reclamation will then provide financial assistance in the form of grants on a non-reimbursable basis to eligible non-Pueblo entities to plan, permit, design, engineer, and construct Mutual-Benefit Projects in accordance with the Settlement Agreement. In FY 2016, $4 million is requested under the Taos settlement.

Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (NM)

Title VI of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 authorizes: (1) the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Agreement; (2) construction of the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System (RWS); (3) acquisition of water rights; and (4) establishment of the Aamodt Settlement Pueblos’ Fund, totaling $62.5 million. The Act provided $56.4 million in mandatory funding and authorized $50 million in appropriations for the construction of the RWS. The settlement serves the Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque Pueblos Tribes. Under the Aamodt settlement, $6.0 million is requested in FY 2016.

White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act (AZ)

Title III of the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 provided $152.7 in mandatory funds and authorized for appropriation $16.0 million in discretionary funding for the construction of a Rural Water System which is planned to begin in FY 2017. For the construction of the Rural Water System, the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act is authorized to use the mandatory funds which were made available under the Act. No discretionary funding for this settlement is being requested in FY 2016; the Act authorizes the further use of discretionary funds for “Cost Overruns” (section 310(a)), but no funding is currently needed for this purpose.

Together, the four Indian water rights settlements will provide permanent water supplies and offer economic security for the tribes and pueblos described above. The agreements will build and improve reservation water systems, rehabilitate irrigation projects, construct a regional multi-pueblo water system, and codify water-sharing arrangements between Indian and neighboring communities.

Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project (NM, AZ)

In addition to the four Claims Resolution Act Settlements, Reclamation is also requesting $89.7 million for the implementation of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, authorized by Title X of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11). This project is a key element of the Navajo Nation Water Rights Settlement on the San Juan River. This project will provide a reliable and sustainable municipal, industrial, and domestic water supply from the San Juan River to 43 Chapters of the Navajo Nation including the Window Rock, AZ area; the city of Gallup, NM; the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry; and the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation Reservation. All of these entities rely on a rapidly declining groundwater supply that is inadequate to meet present and projected needs to year 2040. As part of the major infrastructure project, Reclamation is authorized to construct, operate and maintain this water supply system to meet these projected demands. This project, which is required to be completed in 2024, is one of the Administration’s high priority infrastructure projects and will now be on a path to meet settlement requirements over the next decade.

Projects in the Water and Related Resources Account:

Animas La Plata Project (CO, NM)

The Animas-La Plata Project request of $2.9 million for FY 2016 includes funding for continued life cycle operation and maintenance of facilities as well as the associated wetland and wildlife mitigation lands.

Nez Perce/Columbia-Snake River Salmon Recovery (ID, OR, WA)

The FY 2016 budget requests $18 million for salmon recovery, of which $5.2 million is in direct support of the Nez Perce Water Rights Settlement.  Reclamation acquires up to 487,000 acre-feet of water from willing sellers for Snake River flow augmentation under the Upper Snake Irrigation Projects Biological Opinion and to meet Reclamation obligations under the Nez Perce Water Rights Settlement. In addition, this program supports actions required by Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries biological opinions on operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS). The NOAA Fisheries 2014 FCRPS Biological Opinion was issued in response to litigation and represents collaboration with States and Tribes in the Columbia River Basin. Reclamation, along with the other action agencies, entered into multiple 10-year memoranda of agreement with three states and seven tribes to support the FCRPS BiOp; this program funds Reclamation actions included in those agreements.  In total, 13 species of anadromous salmon and steelhead have been listed by NOAA Fisheries and two non-anadromous species (Kootenai River white sturgeon and bull trout) have been listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Columbia River Basin that could be affected by operation of the FCRPS. 

Arizona Water Settlements Act

Through the Arizona Water Settlements Act, the Secretary provides delivery of substantial amounts of water to several Tribes as part this Indian Water Settlement. Funding in support of the delivery of Central Arizona Project water is derived from the Lower Colorado River Basin Development Fund. Ak-Chin Indian Water Rights Settlement Act Project

The Ak-Chin Settlement Act facilitates delivery of Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project to irrigated lands on the Ak-Chin Indian Reservation. The Act requires that this water be delivered at no cost to the Ak-Chin Community. The FY 2016 request of $15.3 million continues the operation and maintenance functions and repairs to the delivery canal associated with the delivery of 89,500 acre-feet of Central Arizona Project water to the Ak-Chin Community.

Native American Affairs Program

The request includes $10.9 million for the Native American Affairs Program to continue support of Reclamation activities with Indian Tribes.  These activities include providing technical support for Indian water rights settlements; assisting tribal governments to develop, manage, and protect their water and related resources; and supporting Indian self-governance and self-determination programs. There is an increased level of support of $2.8 million, principally to improve capacity to work with and support Tribes in the resolution of their water rights claims and develop sustainable water sharing agreements and management activities. This funding will also strengthen Department-wide capabilities to achieve an integrated and systematic approach to Indian water rights negotiations to consider the full range of economic, legal and technical attributes of proposed settlements. It will also provide an increased level of support for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) activities.


There are a number of other Reclamation projects that also support Tribal Nations: the Trinity River Restoration Program, (CA), Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project (WA) and portions of other projects such as Klamath, Yakima, and Lahontan Basin. Additionally, the following rural water projects provide significant support for Indian reservations served by the projects: Fort Peck Reservation/Dry Prairie Rural Water System (MT), the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin’s Garrison Diversion Unit (ND), the Rocky Boys/North Central Montana Rural Water System (MT), and the Mni Wiconi Project (SD).