Baucus, Tester introduce Blackfeet Water Settlement

Senators push to turn historic water rights agreement into law

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today introduced legislation to turn an historic water rights settlement for the Blackfeet Indian Tribe into law.

The settlement would resolve all claims to water rights on the Reservation and ensure clean water for the northern Montana reservation as well as farms, ranches, and businesses in the surrounding communities.

Negotiations between the Blackfeet Tribe, local communities, and the state and federal governments began in the 1980s to establish water rights in and around the Blackfeet Reservation.  A formal agreement was finally included in the Montana Legislature’s 2009 Blackfeet Water Compact.

Baucus and Tester today introduced a bill to make the settlement federal law and permanently resolve the long-standing disputes.

“This is an historic moment for the Blackfeet tribe and for the Montanans who call these communities home,” Baucus said.  “Montanans of all stripes worked together on this plan.  Now we’re taking the ball and moving it closer to the goal line to finally solve these longstanding disputes.”

“This is a great example of folks sitting down, working through their differences, and finding common ground on one of the most important resources we’ve got,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  “Now it’s time for Congress to honor this agreement by setting it in law.  We’re going to work hard to get it done.”

The Blackfeet Water Settlement would:

  • Establish the tribe’s water rights in all six drainages within the reservation.
  • Rehabilitate the aging Four Horns Dam and Blackfeet Irrigation Project.
  • Give the Blackfeet Tribe the ability to use, lease, contract, or exchange water on tribal land.
  • Protect the rights of non-Indian water users and members of the Fort Belknap Indian Community and the Chippewa-Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy Reservation.
  • Develop Reservation water resources and promote economic development.

Baucus’ and Tester’s Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act is available online HERE.