HELENA — The Biden administration says it’s directing hundreds of millions of dollars this year to continue funding Indian water rights settlements – including for two tribes in Montana.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week that more than $326 million will be invested to keep fulfilling the agreements. That includes almost $36 million for the Blackfeet water rights settlement and almost $13 million for the Crow Tribe water rights settlement.
Leaders say this funding will support projects aimed at ensuring reliable water supplies for tribes.
"Through the President’s Investing in America agenda, the Interior Department is continuing to uphold our trust responsibilities and ensure that Tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. “Reliable water is crucial to ensuring the health, safety and empowerment of Indigenous communities. I am grateful that Tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed.”
The department says $120 million of the money will come from the Reclamation Water Settlements Fund, created by Congress in 2009, which is receiving that amount annually from 2020 through 2029. The rest will come from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, which included $2.5 billion for a fund to help complete the tribal water settlements.
There were 34 congressionally enacted Indian water rights settlements across the country when the infrastructure law passed – including the Blackfeet, Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Chippewa Cree Tribe and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana. Leaders said many of those agreements have remained underfunded for years.