Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ01) and Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) introduced H.R. 2459 and S. 1277, respectively, the Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2019. A similar bill was introduced last Congress by then-Senator Jeff Flake and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ04).
In a letter published in the Gam’Yu Newsletter, tribal member Charlie Vaughn voiced his support for the legislation and urged the tribal council to support it.
“The bill provides the tribe with the ability to have constructed, a diversion from the river that has the capacity to deliver at least 3,400-acre feet of water to the reservation for use or storage,” explains Vaughn. “The water right is to be held in trust. The tribe may transfer entitlement for use or storage. The tribe retains the right to waters on the reservation. The bill provides technical assistance of $2,000,000. The bill authorizes apporpriation of $134,500,00 to construct the diversion. Operation, maintenance and repair of the project is funded at $32,000,000. All funding is tied to the construction of the porject.”
Vaughn concludes that the bill “represents building the self-sufficiency of the tribe for life times that extend far into the future.”
The Hualapai Tribe reservation was established in 1883 through an executive order. The reservation is located along 108 miles of the Colorado River and occupies roughly one million acres. There are approximately 2,300 enrolled members of the Hualapai Tribe and more than 1,600 people living on the reservation as of the 2000 census.
Rep. O’Halleran’s bill is cosponsored by all other representatives from Arizona except Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03). Similarly, Sen. McSally’s bill is cosponsored by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
Reps. O’Halleran, Ruben Gallego (D-AZ07), and Greg Stanton (D-AZ09); and Sens. McSally and Sinema; and Hualapai Tribal Chairman Dr. Damon Clarke released the following statements voicing support for the legislation.
“Water is the lifeblood of communities throughout Arizona and across the region, and without it, economic development and growth is stalling. Today, I am proud to support Arizona families and tourism by introducing the Hualapai Water Rights Settlement Act,” Rep. O’Halleran said. “This important legislation will give the Hualapai Tribe access to water from the Colorado River. Peach Springs and Grand Canyon West will be able to drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs in the area. I am pleased to see members of our delegation coming together in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to address this issue.”
“Grand Canyon West, located on the Hualapai reservation, brings more than one million visitors each year to Arizona,” said Sen. McSally. “The Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act codifies the agreement made between tribe and government to sustain high levels of tourism and employment in the area. It is critical this bill is sent to the president’s desk quickly not only to boost the Hualapai Tribe’s economic self-sufficiency, but to provide fundamental long-term water security necessary for the Tribe’s population on the Reservation.”
“I’m proud to work closely with the Hualapai Tribe to finalize a landmark water rights settlement that will provide the Hualapai people with water security and grow Arizona’s economy,” said Sen. Sinema.
“The lack of a secure and sustainable water supply has long been a barrier to the Hualapai Tribe’s economic stability and ability to exercise their full sovereign rights,” said Rep. Gallego. “I am proud to support this settlement, which will finally allow the Hualapai Tribe to exercise its water rights, improve its water infrastructure, and guarantee access to water for future generations.”
“The future economic viability of the Hualapai Tribe depends like so many communities on its access to clean water supplies,” said Rep. Stanton. “This funding will help deliver Colorado River water to the Reservation where nearly all tribal members live today, as well as to Grand Canyon West—a major economic development project for the Tribe. That water access will support new growth and help create jobs, both on and off the Reservation.”
“The Hualapai Tribe has worked for years to secure its water rights, and this critical legislation will strengthen our sovereignty and self-reliance for generations,” said Hualapai Tribal Chairman Dr. Damon Clarke. “We are grateful for the continued work of Arizona’s congressional delegation, especially Sen. Martha McSally, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Rep. Tom O’Halleran and Rep. Paul Gosar. They have all been steadfast in their support of the Hualapai Tribe. As the Senate and House move this legislation forward, we await the day when we can finally secure these rights that are essential to the future of the Hualapai people.”