U.S. Senate Panel Delays Vote on Blackfeet Water Agreement

Act would establish the tribe's right to water within its northwestern Montana reservation

By Molly Priddy

BILLINGS — A U.S. Senate committee vote on a bill to finalize a water rights settlement with the Blackfeet American Indian tribe has been postponed until early next year.

A spokesman for bill sponsor Sen. Jon Tester of Montana says a vote scheduled Wednesday was put off to allow for continued negotiations between the tribe and Interior Department.

The proposed Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act would establish the tribe’s right to water within its northwestern Montana reservation. It’s co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Steve Daines.

A prior version of the bill introduced two years ago was opposed by the Obama administration, in part over concerns with its $420 million price tag.

The settlement has been in works for more than three decades. It was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2009.