Representative Grace F. Napolitano Representing the 38th District of California
  For Immediate Release Contact: 202-225-5256  
December 1, 2010  

Rep. Napolitano Helps Secure Native American Water Rights


(Washington D.C.)- Yesterday, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano voted in favor of H.R. 4783, the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which passed the House of Representatives with provisions establishing the federal government’s obligation to make drinking water available to Native American tribes and pueblos.

Napolitano is chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee and lead efforts to strengthen the Native American water rights provisions in the bill. The legislation fulfills a commitment the United States made to these tribes when they established the reservations.

Napolitano made the following statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Video is available at

“Titles III through VI settle the water rights claims for seven tribes and pueblos in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.  In the case of the five New Mexico pueblos, this legislation would end a combined total of 84 years of protracted, divisive and expensive litigation.

“This legislation is fully paid for.  Most of these settlements involve either the rehabilitation of facilities or the design and construction of much needed drinking water systems.  Having an offset for the entire cost of this legislation allows for project construction to start earlier and stay on schedule, ultimately saving taxpayers millions of dollars in construction costs that are subject to inflation increases. In the case of White Mountain Apache and the Miner Flat Project, it is estimated that these savings are as much as $7 million annually. 

“The scarcity of water in the West and a long-running effort to meet the needs of the tribal communities has required compromise and development of trust in the process. The tribes have negotiated in good faith and ultimately have settled for a water right that is far less than what their initial claims asserted in litigation with the United States.

“When this Nation established reservations we did so with a commitment to supply the tribes with water. The beauty of these four settlements is that the tribal, federal, state and local stakeholders all see the benefit as not just for the tribal members - but for the communities and regions as a whole. All four settlements have received bipartisan support and have been considered and debated by the House, whether through a subcommittee hearing or house passage.  

“Title seven of this legislation provides initial funding to the Reclamation Water Settlement Fund, established in Public Law 111-11. The initial funding will go towards the design, planning and construction of the Navajo – Gallup Water Supply Project. This project will bring water to the Navajo Nation and their non-Indian neighbors.

“In 2010 I think it is time that we provide the infrastructure for these people so that they don’t have to wait for a truck to navigate the unmaintained roads to bring water to their homes. Water, a basic human right, should be provided to all of our citizens.  It is time we step up to our commitments. 

“I would like to commend all of the parties involved in the negotiation of these settlements, from the tribes and pueblos, their non-tribal neighbors, and the local and state entities that have spent countless hours in bringing water certainty to their communities. We would also like to commend the Administration in their rededication to the Indian water settlement negotiation process. It is to the Administration’s credit that we have in front of us four settlements that we can fully support. 

“It is time that we give these settlements their full support, and provide water certainty and more importantly, a water future to the tribes and their neighbors.”




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