On June 4, the Senate passed a Indian water rights package, including: the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act; the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Completion Act; and the Kickapoo Tribe Water Project Study. The Kickapoo Tribe Water Project Study directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a study of the Upper Delaware and Tributaries Watershed Plan, in order to advance water rights settlement discussions involving the Tribe and the State of Kansas. The Aamodt Litigation Settlement Completion Act allows for the completion of the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System, increases the federal cost ceiling by $137 million, and extends the completion date to 2028.
The Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act authorizes $210 million in funding for water infrastructure and quantifies the right to deplete 81,500 acre-feet of water per year from Utah’s Colorado River Basin apportionment. It settles current and future reserved water rights claims by the Navajo Nation in Utah, and requires the State of Utah to contribute $8 million toward the settlement, which has already been approved by the Utah legislature and Governor Gary Herbert (R-UT). Governor Herbert said: “This agreement is the result of more than 15 years of good faith work between Utah leaders, the U.S. Department of Interior, and the Navajo Nation. It will create clean drinking water projects for our Navajo friends and certainty for Utah’s future water needs.” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said: “As the Navajo Nation continues to struggle to address COVID-19, we welcome the passage by the United States Senate of the Navajo Utah Water Rights Settlement Act, which would provide desperately needed funding for clean drinking water to our members…. [W]e ask our friends in the House to pass the legislation without delay.”