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CRIT Proposes Landmark Federal Legislation That Will Help Arizona Drought Relief And Provide Economic Opportnities for Tribal Members
(PARKER, AZ.) The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) Tribal Council is proposing new federal legislation that would enable CRIT to lease a portion of its federal water allocation to bring about more drought relief for Arizona and economic opportunities for tribal members.
If passed and signed into law, this proposed federal legislation would allow CRIT, like numerous other Arizona tribes, to lease water off its reservation. CRIT is the largest holder of first priority Colorado River Water in Arizona. In 2019, CRIT tribal members approved Protect and Prosper: The CRIT Water Ordinance with nearly two-thirds of the vote, a critical first step towards the introduction of federal legislation. The CRIT Tribal Council had unanimously referred the Water Ordinance to the voters.
Federal legislation to permit leasing, not selling, a portion of CRIT’s Colorado River federal entitlement off reservation could provide Arizona with additional drought relief The legislation would authorize the CRIT to lease a portion of its Arizona allocation for off-reservation use within Arizona. The water to be made available for lease will be measured by previous consumptive use by CRIT.
Prior to a bill being introduced in Congress,
the state of Arizona will be seeking public input .
Virtual public hearings will be held in early December so that tribal members as well as water stakeholders in Arizona can learn more about the proposed legislation to authorize CRIT to lease its water off the reservation and to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to approve such leases.
Last year a tribal referendum gave the Tribal Council a clear mandate to seek federal legislation to authorize CRIT to lease part of its entitlement of water for off-reservation use. CRIT looks forward to having the same rights regarding its federal water allocation as other tribes in Arizona and throughout the western United States.
CRIT Chairman Dennis Patch said, “CRIT is one of the few entities that has real water at its disposal, not water that exists only on paper. We take that role seriously as we consider agreements that provide drought relief for Arizona, and provide economic benefits for the people of CRIT while at the same time preserving the life of the Colorado River.”
Vice Chairman Keith Moses said, “This is going to be a very public process with public meetings and comments in Arizona before there are hearings in Washington, DC and that’s critical because the more the public understands this legislation, the more they will support it.”
CRIT is currently making 50,000 acre-feet of water available a year for three years as system conservation to prop up the elevations in Lake Mead under an agreement and funding from the State of Arizona and NGO and corporate funders. In total, by the end of 2022 CRIT will have contributed enough water to Lake Mead to raise the elevation by almost three feet helping to prevent shortages.
CRIT has the first priority decreed water right to divert 662,402 acre-feet per year to serve lands in Arizona. This first-priority right is not likely to be cut during shortages and will be a valuable addition to the water available to the State of Arizona.