Flake, McCain Introduce Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) yesterday introduced S. 2503, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act. The bill would codify agreements that would settle water-right dispute in the Bill Williams River Watershed, providing certainty to both Indian and non-Indian water users. Today, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 4924), cosponsored by the entire Arizona delegation.
“I am pleased to join Senator McCain in introducing this legislation to settle water rights disputes in the Bill Williams River Watershed,” said Flake. “Not only will this agreement help the Hualapai Tribe, it will enable further economic opportunities throughout the State. I look forward to working with my colleagues and all interested stakeholders as this bill begins moving through the legislative process.”
“This bill is a winner for the State of Arizona, the Hualapai Tribe, and Freeport,” said McCain. “It would ensure that the Bagdad Mine can continue using its existing water supply while putting the Hualapai on the path of finally having their water needs addressed by the federal government. Congress must act quickly on this bill or risk losing the land and water conservation benefits provided for the Bill Williams River under this agreement.”
Background: Freeport Minerals Corporation owns and operates a copper mine and townsite in Bagdad, Ariz. The water for that operation comes from a series of wells along the Big Sandy River (a tributary of the Bill Williams River) in what is known as the Wikieup Wellfield.
Because the Hualapai tribe also owns parcels in the area that could be impacted by Freeport’s pumping, the United States, on the tribe’s behalf, objected to Freeport’s applications to transfer water rights from Planet and Lincoln ranches to the Wikieup Wellfield.
As part of this settlement, Freeport will agree to cap its use of water from the Wikieup Wellfield and recognize the reserved rights of the tribe and allottees on nearby parcels. The tribe and the United States on behalf of the tribe and the allottees further agree to waive claims and drop their objections to Freeport’s severance and transfer request. Finally, Freeport will transfer portions of Planet Ranch for use in the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program.
Rep. Gosar Introduces Bill to Provide Certainty for Arizona Water Users
"The settlement of tribal water rights claims is a priority in the state of Arizona"
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) released the following statement after introducing H.R. 4924, the Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2014:
"Water in our arid state is critical to our continued economic stability and is, of course, a limited resource on which there are many existing demands that need to be met. The settlement of tribal water rights claims is a priority in the State of Arizona.
"This bill is good for private property owners, settles an outstanding water rights settlement, and will result in a net water benefit to the basin."
Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Ron Barber (D-AZ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) are all original cosponsors of the bill.
U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S.2503).
The bill would facilitate the achievement of a fair, equitable and final settlement of certain claims within the Bill Williams River watershed among the Hualapai Tribe, the U.S. Department of the Interior acting on behalf of itself and as trustee for the Tribe, its members and allottees, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and Freeport-McMoRan.
In addition to securing certain water rights for the Tribe, the Tribe will also benefit from two non-Federal contributions provided by Freeport-McMoRan to: 1) support a tribal water supply study necessary for the advancement of a settlement of the Tribe’s claims for Colorado River water; and 2) enable the Tribe to purchase and secure Colorado River water rights to help facilitate a future comprehensive settlement.
As part of the agreement codified by this Act, Freeport-McMoRan will also transfer portions of Planet Ranch for use in the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program. The agreement will result in a net water benefit to the basin as Freeport-McMoRan has agreed to cap its use of water from the Wikieup Wellfield.