Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
December 10, 2004
President Bush Signs Landmark
Arizona Water Settlement Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton announced today that landmark water settlement legislation, shepherded through Congress by Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, has been signed into law today by President George W. Bush. The president's approval of the "Arizona Water Settlements Act" (S. 437) culminates over a decade of negotiations among representatives of the federal government, the states of Arizona and New Mexico, local governments, the Gila River Indian Community, the Tohono O'odham Nation and other Native American communities in the region.

"This legislation is the most far-reaching piece of water legislation within Arizona since Congress authorized the Central Arizona Project some 36 years ago," Secretary Norton said in announcing the president's approval of the law today. "It provides a comprehensive resolution to some of the most critical water use issues facing Indian tribes and Arizona today."

The Act, which approves three separate settlements, provides a comprehensive resolution of critical water use issues facing the state of Arizona. It addresses water rights claims of the Gila River Indian Community, which are among the largest Indian water rights claims in the West and have contributed to uncertainty over future water availability for Arizona cities, towns, utilities, industry, and agriculture. The legislation also addresses the Southern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement, which had only partially resolved the claims of the Tohono O'odham Nation. Finally, the Act implements a settlement stipulation that for the first time brings federal and state entities into agreement over how to ensure the reliable allocation of water supplies from the Central Arizona Project.

"The achievement of this legislation is underscored by its complexity and interlocking provisions to solve longstanding water issues for the state and tribes in the region," Secretary Norton said. "This comprehensive approach is the right way to resolve longstanding disputes regarding the use of the Central Arizona Project and this portion of Arizona's allocation from the Colorado River. It is a testament to the tenacity and team effort over many years by dedicated employees of the Department, working in tandem with Sen. Jon Kyl and his dedicated staff. Sen. Kyl has worked tirelessly for many years to bring this historic legislation to the finish line and is to be commended. I also congratulate Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. J.D. Hayworth for their effort in getting this legislation through the 108th Congress before its adjournment."

Secretary Norton noted that the approval of the legislation is another step in her efforts to reduce conflict and bring a new era of certainty for water users throughout the Colorado River region.
"Through this settlement, all groups - cities, tribes, farmers - that are served by the Central Arizona Project will share equitably in the benefits of the project for decades to come. Having this historic settlement in place under the current drought conditions that we are experiencing in the Colorado River Basin will ensure that people will know with certainty what their water supplies are and how this vital project will be managed," Norton said. "As with the resolution of the California 4.4 plan, these parties have worked together to solve problems cooperatively rather than through decades of litigation. I salute their accomplishment."




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