Daines Celebrates Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Resolve Indian Water Rights Settlement in the U.S. Senate 

U.S. Senator Steve Daines’ bill to resolve the final Indian water rights settlement in Montana passed the U.S. Senate, achieving a fair settlement for Fort Belknap farmers, ranchers and Montanans on the Hi-Line and throughout the entire state.

“This is a huge win for the Tribe, farmers and ranchers and the entire state of Montana, said Daines. “As the final Indian water rights settlement in Montana, this bill will help provide clean drinking water to Montanans on the Hi-Line, invest in critical ag irrigation and help prevent costly litigation by codifying existing water rights. Especially after the catastrophic siphon failure at St. Mary’s this week, we must get this done. After years of hard work with the Fort Belknap Indian Community and local leaders on the ground, I’m glad to see this come one step closer to becoming law.”

The Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act will provide $1.3 billion to improve infrastructure and economic development for the FBIC and improve the efficiency of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Milk River Project, which furnishes water for the irrigation of about 121,000 acres of Tribal and non-Tribal land. The bill specifically includes $275 million to rehabilitate the St. Mary’s canal. The bill will also restore Tribal management to 38,462 acres of state and federal land for the FBIC. Daines and Tester successfully passed the FBIC Water Compact through the Senate earlier this Congress as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but Speaker Mike Johnson and House Republicans stripped it from the final package.