Kelly, Sinema Tribal Water Bills Pass Congress, Set to Become Law
Today, Arizona Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema announced the final passage of three of their major tribal water bills that will help secure Arizona’s water future and improve access to water for tribes in Arizona amidst the West’s enduring drought. The Colorado River Indian Tribes Water Resiliency Act, the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act all passed the Senate and House this week and are now on their way to the President’s desk for his signature.
“As Arizona and the West navigate this historic drought that often hits tribal communities the hardest, the passage of these three bills could not be more significant. After years of hard work, our efforts to get these bills across the finish line will ensure the Colorado River Indian Tribes, Hualapai, and White Mountain Apache have the water they need to support their communities and fuel economic growth for years to come,” said Senator Kelly.
“By working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we ensured critical priorities for Arizona’s tribal communities would not fall victim to partisanship. Passage of these bills will help ensure continued economic growth and water certainty for tribal communities across Arizona,”said Sinema.
“On behalf of the Tribal Council and the members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, I want to thank Senator Kelly and the members of Congress who worked with us to pass this landmark legislation. I also want to thank the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the Central Arizona Project leadership, Tribal leaders who supported our legislation, and all of the elected leaders and stakeholders in Arizona who supported CRIT as we have worked for years on this legislation. In early 2019 our Tribal members voted overwhelmingly to authorize the Tribal Council to pursue this legislation. Since then, the past and present members of the Tribal Council have worked continuously and collaboratively with the Colorado River stakeholders to make this legislation a reality. The people asked this of us, and Congress has acted,” said CRIT Chairwoman Amelia Flores.
“On behalf of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, I would like to thank Senator Kelly and Senator Sinema for their leadership in securing passage of this legislation in the Senate. The legislation would provide the necessary funding to provide desperately needed drinking water on the Fort Apache Reservation and resolve the Tribe’s water related claims against the United States and others. We are eternally grateful for the incredible effort made by our Senators to pass the legislation in the Senate and look forward to the bill becoming law very soon,” said Kasey Velasquez, Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
“The passage of the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2022 is an historic step for the Hualapai people, who have lived along the Colorado River for millennia. We are grateful for the tireless work of Senators Sinema and Kelly and the entire Arizona delegation and look forward to the day soon when water will flow into Hualapai homes and businesses in a way that will secure our Tribe’s future for generations. This is life-changing moment for the Hualapai Tribe and the many members of the Tribal Council who have worked toward this goal for more than a decade,” said Hualapai Tribe Vice-Chair Scott Crozier.
“Sen. Sinema, Sen. Kelly and the entire Arizona Congressional delegation showed leadership and perseverance in championing this legislation that is critical to Arizona’s water future and advances needed tribal water settlements,” said Salt River Project Associate General Manager & Chief Water Resources Executive Leslie Meyers. “We are grateful for their commitment to building partnerships and supporting all of our state’s communities.”
The Colorado River Indian Tribes Water Resiliency Act, led by Kelly and backed by Sinema, will empower the tribe to lease a portion of its Colorado River allocation to Arizona communities and reinvest portions of that revenue into making their water infrastructure more efficient. State and local officials, conservation groups, and business leaders say the bill is essential to making Arizona more resilient to drought. Last year, Senator Kelly visited the CRIT community and saw firsthand their farming capabilities and how new water conservation efforts can help mitigate drought conditions. In March, Kelly introduced CRIT Chairwoman Amelia Flores during a hearing for the legislation in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act, led by Sinema and backed by Kelly, would approve the Tribe’s water rights claims, as well as other allotees in Arizona, and authorize construction of the infrastructure needed to deliver 4,000-acre feet of water per year to the tribe’s main tourist center at Grand Canyon West and to residents. In the House, the companion bill was led by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01).
The White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act, led by Kelly and backed by Sinema, will amend a 2010 water rights settlement for the White Mountain Apache Tribe to authorize the use of additional federal funds and extend the time needed to complete the White Mountain Apache Rural Water System and Miner Flat Dam project. In the House, the companion bill was led by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01).