House Unanimously Passes Gosar's Critical, Bipartisan Water Rights Settlement Bill

Dec 1, 2014 Issues: Natural Resources, Energy and Public Lands, Land Exchange

For Immediate Release
Date: December 1, 2014


Contact: Steven D. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after the House of Representatives successfully passed his sponsored legislation, H.R. 4924, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act by unanimous consent: 

I am honored that the House passed my bill today. This legislation is good for private property owners, good for local and county economies, settles an outstanding water rights dispute and will result in a net water benefit to the region. The merits of this settlement are so clear that not only did it have unanimous support from every member of Arizona’s bipartisan delegation, but also passed unanimously through the House Natural Resources Committee as well as the House of Representatives.

“This settlement is a big win for Arizona as a key mine will continue to employ thousands of workers and a water rights dispute is resolved without taxpayer money. Additionally, the Hualapai Tribe resolves certain water rights claims, Mohave County gains additional public land access for hunting and fishing as well as benefitting from good paying jobs and tax revenue associated with continued use of the Bagdad Mine.

“I want thank everyone involved with the passage of H.R. 4924, including outgoing House Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, and recognize Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake who have sponsored the companion Senate version of this legislation, S. 2503. I urge Senate leadership to follow the House’s lead and promptly hold a vote on this common sense legislation before the end of the year.”


H.R. 4924 facilitates the achievement of a fair and equitable settlement of certain claims within the Bill Williams River watershed among the Hualapai Tribe, the U.S. Department of the Interior acting on behalf of itself and as trustee for the Tribe, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and Freeport McMoRan Minerals Corporation. 

The first of the two agreements codified by this legislation allows for certain private water rights owned by Freeport to be severed and transferred to provide water certainty for one of the company’s mining operations. The Bagdad Mine has an economic impact of $339.1 million dollars to the state of Arizona, and sustains nearly 4,000 direct and indirect jobs. Under this first agreement Freeport will also donate 3,400 acres of private land to the Arizona Game and Fish Department to be managed as part of the Multi-Species Conservation Program. Finally, this first agreement will benefit waters users throughout the West as Freeport has agreed to cap its withdrawals of water in the Wikieup Wellfield at 10,055 acre-feet, despite being entitled to nearly 40,000 acre feet of existing water rights. Thus, Congressman Gosar’s bill will result in an overall net water use reduction in the basin of approximately 30,000 acre-feet per year. 

The second of the two agreements approved by H.R. 4924 will secure certain water rights for the Hualapai Tribe as well as two non-federal contributions that will be provided by Freeport to the Tribe for an Infrastructure Fund and an Economic Development Fund. In addition, there is a provision in H.R. 4924 that will allow for new public access for hunting and fishing on the lands involved with this legislation. Furthermore, the local counties benefit from the good paying jobs and tax revenue associated with the continued use of the mine. An economic analysis from W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University found that the associated impact from the Bagdad Mine on Mohave County’s economy is approximately $16 million and 175 jobs.

Preliminary Congressional Budget Office Estimates indicate that the bill costs nothing to the federal government and will not score. Congressman Gosar has posted a fact sheet for H.R. 4924 on his website which can be found HERE.