Tester Authorizes Historic Blackfeet Water Compact

Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Jon Tester today helped pass legislation that authorizes the Blackfeet Water Compact sending it to the President’s desk for signature.

“Today folks on both sides of the aisles were able to put politics aside and do what is right for the Blackfeet Tribe. This Compact will help create jobs and strengthen infrastructure in northwest Montana,” said Tester. “We have more work to do to secure the funding that goes along with this critical settlement, but I will continue to roll up my sleeves and build the support needed to do right by the Blackfeet Nation.”

The Blackfeet Water Compact was included in the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which will be signed into law by President Obama later this month.

The Compact will:
• Establish the tribe’s water rights in all six drainages within the reservation.
• Rehabilitate the aging Four Horns Dam and Blackfeet Irrigation Project.
• Provide for a regional water system to deliver municipal water to communities within the Blackfeet Reservation.
• Give the Blackfeet Tribe the ability to use, lease, contract, or exchange water on tribal land.
• Develop reservation water resources and promote economic development.

The WIIN Act authorizes the Blackfeet Water Compact, but before construction on the water projects can begin, funding must be appropriated through the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.

Tester sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee where he will lead the effort to secure the funding needed to fully enact the Blackfeet Water Compact.

Negotiations between the Blackfeet Tribe, local communities, and the state and federal governments began over 30 years ago to establish water rights in and around the Blackfeet Reservation. A formal agreement was passed by the Montana Legislature in 2009 but needs Congressional approval.