by Arthur H.
12 October 2004
U.S. Senate has approved legislation to resolve a
long-standing dispute over how much Arizona owes the
federal government for construction of the enormous
canal system that moves Colorado River water to the
state's thirsty central and southern cities.
bill also settles Indian water rights, some of which
have been in dispute for decades.
the biggest water settlement in the history of the
United States," Sen. Jon Kyl said Monday of the
bill passed by the Senate on Sunday. The House is
expected to vote on the measure after the November
legislation resolves a complicated web of disputes and
claims by dozens of parties.
gist of the bill is that it will settle long-standing
disputes between Arizona and the United States
government about how much we need to repay for
construction of the Central Arizona Project and claims
by the Gila River Indian Community and the Tohono
O'odham Nation to water," said Kyl, a Republican.
the certainty that the settlement provides will enable
cities, towns, irrigation districts, Indian communities
and others to know what their water rights are in the
future, and to be able to plan accordingly."
settlement will give the tribes a way to exercise water
rights that until now have existed essentially in name
only, while ending disagreement between Arizona and the
federal government concerning nearly $2 billion in CAP
bill has four major components, with the first clearing
up repayment and how project water is allocated between
federal and state interests. It also creates a fund for
current and future Indian water settlements - the Lower
Basin Fund - Kyl said.
second prong will resolve claims of the Gila River
Indian Community, ending litigation dating to 1974. It
will provide the tribe with CAP water to supplement
water on the reservation and to help satisfy the tribe's
budgeted 645,000 acre-feet of water annually.
addition, the tribe will benefit from money to be placed
into the Lower Basin Fund, since about $1.65 billion in
Central Arizona Project water user fees to repay the
federal construction costs will be kept in it, the
money will be used to build Gila River tribal irrigation
projects to reduce the cost of water to the tribe and to
pay for other elements of the settlement, Kyl said. The
tribe will use some of the funds to rebuild an
80-year-old irrigation system.
settlement provided for a guarantee to the tribe of 2.1
billion gallons of CAP water, primarily for farming. But
the tribe would have the option of leasing water back to
cities in Arizona.
third part of the settlement will amend the Southern
Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act of 1982 and resolve
Tohono O'odham water claims, guaranteeing the tribe
28,000 acre-feet of water.
last portion concerns the San Carlos Apache Tribe, Kyl
336-mile Central Arizona Project canal was built at a
cost of about $4.5 billion to deliver water from the
Colorado River to cities in the Phoenix area and Tucson.