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      senate Committees
      Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
    IntroducedJuly 30th, 2013

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Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act of 2013

Official Title

A bill to provide for the settlement of the water rights claims of the Fort Belknap Indian Community, and for other purposes.


Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act of 2013 - Approves the Fort Belknap Indian Community-Montana Water Rights Compact, except to the extent that it conflicts with this Act. Directs the Secretary of the Interior to execute the Compact once it is approved by the Fort Belknap Indian Community (Community), which is composed of the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes and their members and allottees. Requires the United States, the Community, and Montana to petition the Montana Water Court to approve a decree, identified as Appendix 1 to the Compact, that has been agreed to by those parties. Voids approval of the Compact if the decree is not approved within five years after it is filed in court. Requires the tribal water rights to be held in trust by the United States for the Fort Belknap Indian Community and its allottees. Requires the Community to enact, and secure the Secretary's approval of, a Tribal Water Code to regulate tribal water rights. Deems the Code to be approved if the Secretary does not approve or reject it within 90 days of receiving it. Allows the Community, with the approval of the Secretary and Montana, to transfer, temporarily, certain portions of the tribal water rights for use off the Fort Belknap Reservation within the Missouri River Basin. Prohibits the term of such transfer agreements from exceeding 100 years, though the agreement may provide for the renewal of the transfer for an additional term of up to 100 years. Directs the Secretary to provide Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin Program pumping power, at preferred rates, to up to 27,000 net acres under irrigation pursuant to Community projects. Requires the Community and the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Reservation to enter into an agreement, subject to the Secretary's approval, regarding the manner by which they will exercise Milk River water rights on their reservations. Lists the factors to be taken into account in arriving at an equitable accommodation of each tribe's Milk River water needs. Directs the Secretary to divide the Milk River water rights between those tribes if they fail to enter into an agreement within three years of this Act's enactment. Requires the Secretary to: (1) negotiate with Montana for the transfer of specified parcels of state land, located on and off the Fort Belknap Reservation, for federal land; and (2) transfer to the United States specified parcels of federal land that the Community selects and requests. Holds the transferred state and federal lands in trust for the Community. Allocates to the Community 20,000 acre-feet per year of stored water from Lake Elwell that it may use for any beneficial purpose on or off the Reservation. Authorizes the Community to enter into leases or other agreements for the use of that water, provided its use occurs within the Missouri River Basin and the agreement does not permanently alienate the allocation. Directs the Commissioner of Reclamation to modify the operating procedures of the Milk River Project to ensure that the Fresno Reservoir is operated in accordance with the Compact. Directs the Secretary to make such modifications to the federally owned facilities of the Milk River Project as are necessary to satisfy applicable Compact mitigation requirements. Requires Montana to use certain of its own funds and certain federal contributions to fulfill its obligations under the Compact and this Act to mitigate the Milk River Project. Establishes the Fort Belknap Indian Community Settlement Fund in the U.S. Treasury. Directs the Secretary to establish in the Fund: (1) the Fort Belknap Indian Community Tribal Land and Water Rehabilitation, Modernization, and Expansion account; (2) the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Resources and Water Rights Administration, Operation, and Maintenance account; (3) the Fort Belknap Indian Community Tribal Economic Development account; and (4) the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water and Wastewater Rehabilitation and Expansion account. Makes appropriations to these accounts. Authorizes the Community to withdraw amounts in the Fund upon the Secretary's approval of a tribal management plan. Requires the Community to receive the Secretary's approval of a expenditure plan for Fund amounts that are not being withdrawn to carry out this Act. Requires the Secretary to request Montana to pay a specified amount to contribute to the design and construction of the Peoples Creek Reservoir. Provides for the waiver and release by the Community of water rights claims against Montana and the United States in return for recognition of the tribal water rights and other benefits provided under the Compact and this Act. Directs the Secretary to provide the Community with assistance in planning, developing, and constructing Reservation water projects. Requires the Secretary to conduct one or more studies to determine: (1) the feasibility and design of a water supply and wastewater treatment system for the Community, and (2) the environmental impact and compliance of water projects that are developed pursuant to this Act and that involve the same water basin as an existing federal water project. Absolves the United States from liability for any failure to carry out any obligation or activity authorized by this Act if adequate appropriations are not provided expressly by Congress to carry out the purposes of this Act in the Reclamation Water Settlements Fund or the Emergency Fund for Indian Safety and Health.

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