The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today is holding a hearing on S. 2503, The Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2014. Here are four things you need to know:
1) The bill settles a water rights dispute in the Bill Williams Watershed, providing certainty for the Hualapai Tribe and private sector water users.
2) The bill has bipartisan Arizona support. Sen. Jeff Flake is sponsoring the Senate version, and Sen. John McCain is a co-sponsor. In the House, Rep. Paul Gosar has introduced companion legislation, which has the support of all of the Arizona House members. The Hon. Sherry Counts, chairwoman of the Hualapai Tribe, will be on hand to testify.
3) The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry is a strong supporter. As we wrote in our letter to the Committee on Indian Affairs:
The Act would ratify the Big Sandy River-Planet Ranch Water Rights Settlement Agreement and the Hualapai Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Agreement, and would facilitate a fair and equitable settlement of claims to water rights along the Bill Williams watershed in Arizona. In the agreement, Freeport Minerals Corporation will provide a tribal water supply study necessary to the Hualapai Tribe’s claims for Colorado River water and will enable the Tribe to purchase Colorado River water rights to help facilitate a future comprehensive settlement. In exchange, Freeport will secure water rights for its continued operations in northwestern Arizona.
4) Water is critical to Arizona’s future economic health. The settlement of water rights claims is a priority in our state in order to provide clarity and long-term certainty to all water users across Arizona.
You can read Sen. Flake and Sen. McCain’s statement on the bill here.