Tester Proudly Stands With Blackfeet at Historic Water Compact Signing Ceremony
Senator: I Will Continue to Hold Washington Accountable to the Blackfeet Nation
(U.S. Senate)—U.S. Senator Jon Tester today joined members of the Blackfeet Nation, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Montana’s congressional delegation to sign the historic Blackfeet Water Compact.
As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Tester originally sponsored the Blackfeet Water Compact in 2010 and guided it to the President’s desk to be signed into law in 2016. The compact is the product of over 30 years of negotiations between the Tribe, local communities, the State of Montana and the federal government.
It will resolve all claims to water rights on the Blackfeet Reservation, construct and restore water infrastructure and ensure access to reliable and clean water for the communities within the Reservation, as well as farms, ranches, and businesses in the surrounding area.
“The Blackfeet Water Compact reaffirms water rights, saves taxpayers from costly litigation, and invests in critical water infrastructure in northwest Montana,” Tester said. “I was proud to have introduced and fought for this bill in Congress and will continue to hold Congress accountable to the Blackfeet Nation to secure the funding needed to carry out this historic agreement. I want to congratulate Chairman Barnes and the Blackfeet people on the culmination of years of hard work.”
At the ceremony, members of the Blackfeet Nation and Secretary Zinke signed documents to formally implement the Blackfeet Water Compact, the final stage in the ratification process.
Before being ratified by the Department of the Interior, all tribal water rights settlements must pass the state legislature, both chambers of Congress, and be signed into law by the President.
Although the compact is now ratified, funding for the water infrastructure projects it authorizes must be appropriated through the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.
Tester used his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure $10 million for the Blackfeet Water Compact in a bipartisan government funding bill in March.
Tester secured an additional $10 million for the Blackfeet Water Compact last month in the 2019 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that is awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor.