The Biden administration announced that it will use $1.7 billion from the federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements.
This announcement was made by the U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Feb. 22, reported AP News. The money ensures clean water access to tribes.
According to AP News, there are almost 40 water rights settlements that have been reached with tribes. Some include more than one tribe as well.
“I am grateful that tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed,” said Haaland in a statement, reported AP News.
The funding for settlements is part of an approximate $11 billion from the infrastructure law meant for Indian Country to expand broadband coverage, fix roads and provide basic needs. 31 of the settlements are eligible for funds from the infrastructure bill, according to the Interior Department. The infrastructure bill includes $2.5 billion for water rights settlements, reported AP News.
The settlements receiving funding in 2022 are: Aamodt Litigation Settlement (Pueblos of San Ildefonso, Nambe, Pojoaque, and Tesuque); Blackfeet Nation; Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; Crow Nation; Gila River Indian Community; Navajo-Utah Water Rights Settlement and Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project; San Carlos Apache Nation; Tohono O’odham Nation; and White Mountain Apache Tribe.
“Though this funding can’t make it rain, or refill wells or reservoirs with water, it can go a long way to build resilience and develop strategies that can help stretch water resources that are available," Haaland added, reported KJZZ.
A group of Democratic senators from Western states also wrote a letter encouraging the Senate to include $616 million for drought and agricultural assistance, stating that drought threatens a crucial water resource for at least seven states, reported AP News.