BILLINGS — The Senate has approved major water rights settlements with American Indian tribes in Arizona, Montana and New Mexico that have been pending in some cases for decades.
Calling the settlements historic, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Friday said they would deliver more than $1 billion combined to four tribes.
Money would go toward safe drinking water systems and irrigation improvements that could boost reservation economies. Montana's Crow Tribe would receive the largest amount — $460 million.
The other settlements are with Arizona's White Mountain Apache Tribe and New Mexico's Aamodt and Pueblo of Taos Indians.
Federal law says tribes have a right to water to meet their needs, but it has taken decades to settle many tribes' claims against the government.