White Mountain Apache water rights settlement reached

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick recently helped end the long-running White Mountain Apache water rights dispute, providing a much-needed drinking water supply for communities across Greater Arizona. H.R. 1065, a bill she introduced in cooperation with the tribe and other stakeholders to finalize a settling agreement and authorize key water projects, passed the House with bipartisan support.

Congressional approval is required to complete the settlement process, which has taken years of negotiation between the White Mountain Apache Tribe and 20 other settling parties.

Unlike litigation, negotiated agreements of water rights disputes ensure the tribes and neighboring communities achieve real certainty in their water supply, so that they can better plan for the years to come. The talks also build working relationships among the parties involved, helping them cooperate and more effectively manage their watersheds in the long run. The White Mountain Apache Water Rights Quantification Act will allow folks in Greater Arizona to finally begin to see those benefits.

"Water is a precious resource to all of us in the southwest, and we know we need to make each drop count," said Rep. Kirkpatrick. "After years of hard work and compromise, this legislation will allow folks in my district to secure our water supply. Today's vote is a major step forward for all those who have worked on this issue for so long."

Along with approving the agreement, H.R. 1065 allows for construction of the Miner Flat Dam and Pipeline. This project will provide a 100-year municipal drinking water supply to towns on White Mountain Apache tribal lands. It is critical to those communities, which are constantly threatened with severe shortages even in good water years for the state.

The legislation also authorizes other projects that will grow the region's economy, including the Alchesay-Williams Creek National Fish Hatchery Complex and the White Mountain Apache Tribe Fishery Center.

"This legislation will make a real difference in ... helping us develop the water supply we need and creating jobs at the same time," said Rep. Kirkpatrick.

The bill has earned widespread support in Arizona. The legislation was introduced with Senator Jon Kyl, and every member of the state's delegation in the House has signed on as a co-sponsor. In total, 262 members voted in favor.

The next step for the bill will be consideration by the Senate.

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