By Alan Sorensen
Rocky Boy's Chippewa Cree Tribe came one step closer to increasing its on-reservation water storage this week.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus announced Thursday that the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2002 Interior spending bill that includes $7.95 million for the Rocky Boy project.
The water project is the result of a reserved water rights compact the Chippewa Cree Tribe entered with the state and federal government. The compact established the tribe's quantities of reserved use rights for stream flow and other surface water. Among the projects outlined in the compact are expansion of up to four dams on the reservation and a water treatment plant and pipeline from Lake Elwell.
The Lake Elwell project, which does not benefit from Thursday's allocation, would provide a 40-mile pipeline from Tiber Dam to the reservation.
The drinking water project has been taken up by nearly 40 north-central Montana communities and is a cooperative effort with the tribe under the North Central Montana Regional Water Project. Participating communities are strewn throughout the area, from the North Havre Water District and Hill County Water District to south of Conrad and the Missouri River.
The Hill County Water District is composed of Hi-Line communities from Kremlin to Joplin. The North Havre Water District extends among farm and ranch homes north of Havre to near the Canadian border.
The funds approved Thursday are earmarked specifically for water projects on the reservation. Other legislation is pending on funding for the clean drinking water project at Tiber.
"The tribe is pleased that the Appropriations Committee has authorized that negotiated amount," said Jay Eagleman, tribal water resource manager. "This is a negotiated water rights settlement dollar (amount). The tribe has settled the water right through a negotiation process that will allow the tribe and the entire north-central region a greater opportunity to manage the water resources in a more detailed fashion.
"A special thanks goes to Senator Burns for his support and participation in the entire settlement process. We are looking forward to providing the reservation community all the opportunities associated with the water settlement."
Eagleman said the primary surface water project at Rocky Boy is the expansion of Bonneau Dam located between the agency and Box Elder. Three other dams being considered for possible future expansion are East Fork Dam at the head of Beaver Creek, Brown Reservoir and Towe Reservoir.
"I've been working hard with the entire Montana delegation to provide the Rocky Boy's Reservation and surrounding areas with a dependable, permanent source of clean water," Baucus said in announcing the appropriation. "I am encouraged by today's aapropriations bill for the Rocky Boy water rights project, which will stimulate economic development, create jobs and improve the quality of life for many people on the reservation and across the Hi-Line."
The Rocky Boy funding was part of a package that earmarked a total of about $54.45 million for projects throughout the state.
Other principle funding recipients include:
Indian Memorial at Little Big Horn National Monument, $2.3 million;
Visitor center at Pompey's Pillar National Monument, $2.9;
Stabilization of Many Glacier Hotel, $6 million;
Apgar water system at Glacier National Park, $5.48 million;
Visitors center at Fort Benton, $2.5 million;
Montana Water Center at Montana State University-Bozeman, $400,000;
National Center for Landscape Fire Analysis, University of Montana, $1 million;
InPsych program at University of Montana, $50,000;
Conservation easements on Thompson and Fisher rivers, $9 million;
Land and water conservation funds for the Red Rock Wildlife Refuge, $500,000;
Land acquisition in Swan Valley, $7 million;
Land acquisition in Gallatin National Forest, $1 million;
Land acquisition in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, $7 million;
Facilitate land exchange near Axolotl Lakes, $1 million.