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May 9, 2000

H.R. 2647 - Ak-Chin Water Use Amendments Act
(Shadegg (R) AZ)

The Administration opposes H.R 2647, which would amend the Ak-Chin Water Settlement Act of 1984 to permit the Ak-Chin Indian Community in Arizona to lease its off-reservation water for more than 100 years. The Administration supports the efforts of the Ak-Chin to market its water. However, the bill does not address the core issues which concern the State's regulatory restrictions on the time frame for the tribe's leasing contracts. Further, H.R. 2647 would have serious implications for Indian trust resources generally.

Under current law, the Tribe is authorized to lease its off-reservation water for leases not to exceed 100 years (which is fully consistent with other statutes limiting temporary conveyances of trust properties). Arizona regulations are being interpreted to require lease terms potentially much longer than that. H.R. 2647 would authorize the Tribe to renew or extend its leases without restriction as to the number of renewals or length of years. This diminishes the value of the water and could lead to de facto alienation of trust resources. In addition, the bill includes directive language that would place serious limitations on the Secretary of the Interior's discretion in leasing trust resources, and on compliance with environmental laws.

The Administration believes this legislation is not necessary and would prefer to work with the State, the Tribe, and other interested parties to negotiate a solution that will ensure the Ak-Chin Community the benefits of its water rights settlement, and provide a proper balance between state regulatory authority and federal law governing trust resources.

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