Department of Interior allocating $33.4M to Arizona tribal water settlements

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A boat moves along Wahweap Bay along the Upper Colorado River Basin at the Utah and Arizona border near Wahweap, Arizona. The Infrastructure Law included $2.5 billion for Native American water rights settlements. Ross D. Franklin / AP

By Cameron Arcand | The Center Square

The U.S. Department of Interior is using funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to fund tribal water rights settlements, including several in Arizona.

U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly touted the move, as they were both key figures in getting the act passed into law in 2021.

“Our bipartisan infrastructure law continues to deliver historic investments that will stand the test of time. Thanks to our leadership, we’re implementing over $33 million to strengthen Tribes’ economic and water security,” Sinema said in a statement last week.

Allocations are going to the Ak-Chin Indian Water Community Rights Act ($22.5 million), the Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement – Farm Extension ($9 million), San Carlos Apache Tribe ($1.5 million), and San Carlos Irrigation Project Rehab ($400,000). 

The Arizona total of $33.4 million is only a portion of $2.5 billion intended to fund all tribal water settlements nationwide. However, the Oct. 26 announcement from the Interior Department focused on $327 million in funds. 

“The federal government has a long overdue obligation to fulfill tribal water settlements. Our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is keeping that promise by providing Arizona tribes access to a clean and reliable drinking water supply,” Kelly said in a statement. 

The Ak-Chin settlement was the fourth-largest announced in terms of cost, but the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is allocated $164 million in fiscal year 2024, according to the department. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Navajo-Gallup project will build up the eastern Navajo Nation’s water supply by making use of the San Juan River. 

“Reliable water is crucial to ensuring the health, safety, and empowerment of Indigenous communities. I am grateful that Tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. 

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.