Tribal Economies

Interior Announces Funding for Arizona Tribal Water Settlement

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Tuesday outlined plans to use infrastructure money to fund Indian water rights settlements, including several in Arizona.

Haaland met with tribal leaders in Arizona on Monday and visited the Gila River Indian community on Tuesday morning. She is expected to formally discuss the plan and other funding to address water infrastructure and drought resilience in Arizona on Tuesday afternoon with other federal and state officials.

In a statement, Haaland said tribes across the United States would receive $2.5 billion to fund Indian water rights settlements, with the first $1.7 billion allocated in 2022 to finalize. settlements with existing federal obligations. The funding applies to regulations passed by Congress beginning Nov. 15, when President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Act.

Several tribes in Arizona have long struggled with inadequate water supplies, water contaminated with uranium or arsenic, and outdated sanitation systems. The White Mountain Apache Tribe waited about 40 years to build a new water system, when about 30-40% of Navajo homes lack running water.

Nationally, reports estimate that approximately 48% of households in tribal lands do not have access to clean water, reliable water sources or adequate sanitation. The Indian Health Service, one of the agency’s other major water project funders, had a $3.1 billion backlog in delivering water projects in 2021, supporters say. ‘a bill proposed by the senses. Michael Bennet from Colorado and Martin Heinrich from New Mexico. The measure would provide about $6.7 billion for water infrastructure projects.

The funds are part of an Infrastructure Act allocation of more than $13 billion to tribes for new projects ranging from road construction, drought resilience, natural resource management and building high-speed internet, as well as efforts to provide drinking water and sanitation projects to tribal communities. .

The statement also said tribes would be eligible for more funding for what the Department of the Interior called “much-needed investments” in tribal communities and economies.

Officials said $224 million will come to Arizona to implement water infrastructure projects resulting from the settlements of the Gila River Indian Community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the White Mountain Apache tribe. Haaland also said the Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project would receive funding.

“Water is a sacred resource, and water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of tribal communities,” Haaland said in the statement.

Search for water rights: Tribes play a bigger role in managing the Colorado River

She said funding from the Infrastructure Act would enable the Home Office to fulfill its trust responsibilities to the tribes and provide water resources to the tribal communities: “I am grateful that the tribes, some of which have been waiting for this funding for decades, finally get the resources. they are due.

The two Arizona senators, who have strongly supported the infrastructure bill’s proposals, released statements on tribal funding.

“Our bipartisan Infrastructure Act invests directly in tribal economic and water security by fully funding Indian water rights agreements in Arizona and across the country. Our historic investments will strengthen water systems, upgrade critical infrastructure and create jobs,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema, co-author and negotiator of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Senator Mark Kelly, who also worked to shape tribal water settlement provisions in the Infrastructure Act, said, “Securing Arizona’s water future means making sure the federal government lives up to its commitment to our tribal communities. That’s why I’ve worked through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to fully fund Arizona’s Tribal Water Settlements, which will benefit our statewide water supply while delivering the projects. of water infrastructure necessary for tribal communities to have access to clean and reliable drinking water now and for generations to come.

Haaland met with tribal leaders and Arizona Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Arizona, on Monday at the Arizona Intertribal Council office in Phoenix to discuss how the infrastructure law would provide funds to tribes. . Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis posted a recap of the meeting on his Facebook page:

Haaland also announced a new Indian Water Rights Settlement Fund Committee. Members will include the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the assistant secretaries of water and science and Indian affairs and the attorney for the Department of the Interior, as well as other officials. The committee will recommend future allocations from the Completion Fund to Haaland.

Debra Krol reports on indigenous communities at the confluence of climate, culture, and commerce in Arizona and the Intermountain West. Contact Krol at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @debkrol.

Coverage of Indigenous issues at the intersection of climate, culture and trade is supported by the Catena Foundation.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to today.