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Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes two water bills at meeting

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee met for a business meeting on February 3, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved two water rights bills on Wednesday afternoon.

The business meeting marked the first time that the committee has advanced a tribal water settlement in five years, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) observed. He is a co-sponsor of S.1125, the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, a bill that resolves the water rights of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana.

"We need to get them passed," added Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the vice chairman of the committee and a co-sponsor of S.1125. "Tribal water rights are vitally important."

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Indian Affairs Committee Business Meeting February 3, 2016

The committee approved S.1125 by a voice vote even after Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) said he opposed it. He believes the settlement could impact water shares promised to North Dakota under a separate agreement with Montana.

The second bill approved was S.1983, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians Water Rights Settlement Act, although there was little discussion about it. The measure settles the water rights of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in California.

"As with most water settlements, costs can be significant," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming, the chairman of the committee. "I anticipate that the budgetary impacts will remain a work in progress on both bills.”

Committee Notice:
Business Meeting to Consider S. 1125 & S. 1983 (February 3, 2016)

Related Stories:
Senate Indian Affairs Committee reschedules meeting on two bills (1/25)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee sets business meeting for 2 bills (1/22) Senate committee delays action on Blackfeet Nation water rights (12/02)
Audio from Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on water (05/20)

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