WASHINGTON — The Department of Interior announced Thursday that more than a dozen tribes would receive nearly nearly $580 million this year to fulfill settlements of Indian water rights claims. 

The funding will help tribes develop infrastructure projects, including pipelines, irrigation systems and other projects to deliver water to tribal citizens and tribal lands.  

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"Water is a sacred resource, and water rights are crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of Tribal communities,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) said in a statement. “Through this funding, the Interior Department will continue to uphold our trust responsibilities and ensure that Tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised.” 

The DOI said it would allocate $460 million from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and $120 million from the Reclamation Water Settlement Fund, which was created by Congress in 2009. 

There were 34 congressionally enacted Indian Water Rights settlements covered under the infrastructure law. The federal government has trust responsibilities to fulfill these water rights, and federal policy supports the resolution of disputes through negotiated settlements. 

Under the settlements, the Navajo Nation will receive a total of $178 million for its Gallup water supply projects and Utah settlement, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes will receive $156.9 million, and the Gila River Indian Community will receive $79 million. Nine other settlements will also be funded this year, according to the DOI statement.

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Brian Edwards
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Brian Edwards is the interim managing editor of Native News Online and Tribal Business News.