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Tribal nations to get $1.7 billion in water rights settlements from Interior Department

The Biden administration will use $1.7 billion from the recently enacted federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced Tuesday. The money will ensure that tribes get access to water they’ve been promised but have been unable to use because of a lack of funding for infrastructure to store and move it. “I am grateful that tribes, some of whom have been waiting for this funding for decades, are finally getting the resources they are owed,” Haaland said in a statement during a trip to Arizona, where she announced the funding. Over the years, at least 34 tribes have turned to settlements to resolve conflicts with the federal government over water rights. The funding will “help deliver long-promised water resources to Tribal communities … and a solid foundation for future economic development for entire communities dependent on common water resources,” the Department of Interior (DOI) said in a statement. “With this crucial funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Interior Department will be able to uphold our trust responsibilities and ensure that Tribal communities receive the water resources they have long been promised,” she added. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1908 that tribes have rights to as much water as they need to establish a permanent homeland.

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