Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn joined New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez and leaders from four Pueblo tribes—the Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque and San Ildefonso—at the Santa Fe Indian School to execute settlement documents and celebrate the historic New Mexico vs. Aamodt water rights settlement.

“By executing this settlement today and reaching agreement on five other water rights settlements since 2009, we not only have closed the chapter on these longstanding water disputes, but also opened a new chapter in Indian Country – delivering clean drinking water and certainty to water users across the West while providing more than $2 billion to help tribes,” said Secretary Salazar.

“I also am proud of the water settlements achieved under President Obama,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “The settlements like this one we celebrate today in my home state of New Mexico will bring both drinking water and hope to Indian communities. The ‘Aamodt’ water rights settlement resolves four decades of litigation and will create jobs through much-needed infrastructure investments.”

Other dignitaries who participated in the ceremony included the tribal leaders of the Pueblos – Phillip Perez, Governor, Pueblo of Nambe; Mark Mitchell, Governor, Pueblo of Tesuque; George Rivera, Governor, Pueblo of Pojoaque; and Terry Aguilar, Governor, Pueblo of San Ildefonso – as well as Charles Dorame, Chairman, Northern Pueblos Tributary Water Rights Association and Former Governor, Tesuque Pueblo; Kathy Holian, Chair of the Santa Fe County Commission; David Coss, Mayor, City of Santa Fe; and other local and state officials.

Often described as one of the longest-running cases in the federal court system, the Aamodt case concerned water rights related to the Rio Pojoaque Basin north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is the homeland of the four tribes.   Today’s action provides finality to the Pueblos’ water rights and certainty for non-Indian water rights in north central New Mexico.

 

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The Aamodt settlement provides innovative mechanisms for managing water in the Pojoaque River basin to satisfy the Pueblos’ current and future water needs while minimizing disruption to the non-Indian water users.  In addition to the four tribes, this process has included the State of New Mexico, Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe, and numerous local water users.

This settlement is one of four water rights settlements included in legislation signed by President Obama in the 2010 Claims Resolution Act that will help deliver clean drinking water to tribes in New Mexico, Arizona and Montana.   The other three settlements in that law were the Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement provisions, the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement provisions, and the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Quantification provisions.

Two additional water rights settlements were included in the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act – the Northwestern New Mexico Rural Water Projects provisions settling the water rights claims of the Navajo Nation in the San Juan River system in New Mexico and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley Water Rights Settlement quantifying the tribe’s water rights in Nevada. 

A summary of the six American Indian water rights settlements since 2009 follows.