Secretary Jewell Signs Historic Water Rights Agreement with Shoshone-Paiute Tribes and State of Nevada

Agreement Quantifies Water Rights, Will Make $60 Million Available for Duck Valley Reservation

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama's commitment to empower tribal nations, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, on behalf of the United States, signed an historic agreement today at the Department of the Interior guaranteeing the water rights of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes in Nevada and ensuring water supplies and facilities for their Duck Valley Reservation.

Joining Secretary Jewell in a signing ceremony were Shoshone-Paiute Chairman Lindsey Manning and other members of the tribal business council, and other state and federal officials.

Today's ceremony is a crucial step towards a fully enforceable and final settlement, which will free up $60 million in funding authorized for the Shoshone-Paiute to develop water resources and rehabilitate the Bureau of Indian Affairs irrigation project serving the Duck Valley (Shoshone-Paiute) Indian Reservation.

“We are proud that today's agreement helps provide the Shoshone-Paiute with the water supplies and facilities they need in the Duck Valley Reservation,” said Secretary Jewell. “This agreement is the latest step in fulfilling the Administration's commitment to resolving water rights in a manner that benefits Indian tribes and provides certainty to water users. Rehabilitation of the irrigation system on this rural reservation is particularly important to the livelihood of tribal members who depend on the water for agriculture and livestock pasture and healthy habitat.”

“Reaching an agreement of this historic magnitude can only be accomplished through the cooperation of the Tribes, the state, and upstream water users,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “I applaud the tribe's commitment and look forward to the benefits it will deliver to the Duck Valley Reservation.”

With today's signing ceremony, the Administration has executed all six Indian water agreements authorized in legislation since President Obama took office in 2009.

The Secretary's signature provides final Federal approval of the Shoshone-Paiute agreement, first authorized as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 signed into law in March 2009. The agreement specifies the Tribes' rights and how they relate to non-Indian water users on the East Fork of the Owyhee River, and provides for tribal water development projects.

It authorizes $60 million for water-related uses, which was fully appropriated in previous fiscal years.

In addition to irrigation, other possible uses for the funds include protection of cultural resources and fish and wildlife resources, tribal community water and sewer facilities, water quality testing and economic development projects.

“First: Water is life. The value of clean water cannot be overestimated. The homeland of the Shoshone and Paiute is in the arid West, where the adjudication of water rights is increasingly critical as the overall population rises, and economic uses increase, competing with the natural demand," said Tribal Chairman Manning. "We are pleased that the United States has honored the water rights of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley. I personally am honored to sign on behalf of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation because I have witnessed the efforts of many people, from many jurisdictions, in many capacities, over many years to reach this point of a negotiated water rights settlement agreement.”

The Duck Valley Indian Reservation straddles the Idaho-Nevada border. Its 294,000 acres are almost evenly divided between tribal land within southern Owyhee County, Idaho, and northwestern Elko County, Nevada. The East Fork of the Owyhee River traverses the Reservation from the south to the north before joining the Snake River in southern Idaho. The agreement covers water rights relating to the Nevada half of the reservation; Idaho rights were previously settled.

In addition to the Shoshone-Paiute agreement signed today, the other five agreements executed since 2009 include the following:

• On July 30, 2013, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and White Mountain Apache Chairman Ronnie Lupe signed the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Quantification provisions of the 2010 Claims Resolution Act that settled the White Mountain Apache Tribe's claims to both the Gila and the Little Colorado Rivers in Arizona. The agreement provides funding for design and construction of a domestic water delivery system on the Reservation and provides water certainty for the City of Phoenix, the Salt River Project, and other downstream water users.

• On March 14, 2013, Salazar executed the Aamodt Water Rights Settlement resolving water rights to the Rio Pojoaque Basin north of Santa Fe, New Mexico which is the homeland of the Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque and San Ildefonso Pueblos. Secretary Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn joined leaders of the four tribes and New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez at the Santa Fe Indian School to execute and celebrate the agreement. It provided finality to the Pueblos' water rights and certainty for non-Indian water rights in north central New Mexico. This settlement also was contained in the 2010 Claims Resolution Act.

• On July 11, 2012, Salazar executed three water contracts as part of implementation of the Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement provisions of the 2010 Claims Resolution Act. The settlement included the Taos Pueblo, the State of New Mexico, the Town Of Taos, various non-Indian water users and the United States. Provisions relating to this settlement in the 2010 law resolve water rights disputes in the Rio Pueblo de Taos and Rio Hondo stream systems in New Mexico.

• On April 27, 2012, Salazar executed the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement in a signing ceremony at the Department of the Interior with Crow Chairman Cedric Black Eagle and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. The ceremony gave final federal approval to provisions of the 2010 Claims Resolution Act settling all of the Crow Tribe's claims to water in the State of Montana. This compact provided funding for design and construction of a rural water system on the Crow Reservation and for rehabilitation and improvement of the Crow Irrigation Project, while also providing for administration and current and future use of water by all Indian and non-Indian water users on the Reservation.

• On December 17, 2010, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley signed the historic San Juan Navajo Water Rights agreement at the Colorado River Water Users Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Northwestern New Mexico Rural Water Projects Settlement provisions of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 settled the water rights claims of the Navajo Nation in the San Juan River system in New Mexico in exchange for construction of a large municipal and industrial water delivery system to provide water to eastern portions of the Navajo Reservation and adjacent communities.

Pictures from today's signing ceremony are available here.

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