Kelly, Sinema, O’Halleran Introduce Bill to Fund Critical Drinking Water Infrastructure for White Mountain Apache Families

Today, Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, and Representative Tom O’Halleran introduced legislation to fully fund and complete a vital drinking water infrastructure project for the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The bill would amend the Tribe’s water rights settlement that was enacted by Congress in 2010 by authorizing the use of additional federal funds and extending the time needed to complete the White Mountain Apache Rural Water System and Miner Flat Dam project. 

Unforeseen technical delays and cost-overruns in the planning and design of the project require an extension of the deadline set by Congress for constructing the project. The water project would provide clean, reliable drinking water for Tribal members on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, including Whiteriver, Fort Apache, Canyon Day, Cedar Creek, Carrizo, and Cibecue. 

“On behalf of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, I would like to express my appreciation to Senator Kelly, Senator Sinema, and Representative O’Halleran for championing this legislation which would provide the resources and time needed to effectuate the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act. The legislation will ensure that our members have safe drinking water for generations to come and that the Tribe’s water claims are finally resolved,” said Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood. 

“I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Sinema and Representative O’Halleran which will ensure that White Mountain Apache families and businesses have access to reliable, clean, safe drinking water now and for generations to come,” said Senator Mark Kelly.

“Strengthening White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Rural Water System Project will provide clean, dependable, and sustainable drinking water for tribal members now and in the future,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema.

“Clean, running water is something so many of us take for granted, but a vital resource that is far too often inaccessible to tribal families. Today, I’m proud to join our Senators to introduce legislation to amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Water Rights Qualification Act–legislation I have championed since coming to Congress in 2017. Our bill will provide the Tribe the necessary resources and time to build the desperately-needed water infrastructure contemplated in the underlying legislation to ensure they have access to safe, reliable water infrastructure for years to come,” said Representative Tom O’Halleran.

In the Senate, Kelly has maintained a focus on investments into water infrastructure upgrades and modernization for tribal communities. Kelly played a leadership role in drafting the western water and drinking water portions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the Senate in August. The infrastructure bill also provides $2.5 billion to fully fund existing Indian Water Rights Settlements that have been enacted by Congress. This includes settlements for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.