"After decades of work, a water compact with Montana’s Blackfeet Nation was finally settled last year. But the federal government still needs to come up with more than $400 million to fund water improvement projects."
"When the Blackfeet Nation of Montana last year approved a water rights compact with the federal government that had taken more than three decades to negotiate, it was only the beginning. The deal quantifies the tribe’s water rights for the first time and provides for more than $470 million in state and federal funding for water projects and related initiatives, but securing that money will involve further negotiations that are likely to be slow going.
The financing would allow the Blackfeet Nation to make badly needed improvements to water quality on its Montana reservation and help it gain a more secure sense of autonomy and control over water resources that were reserved to the tribe by treaty in 1855 but never quantified. It would also launch badly needed economic development projects – according to the state, unemployment rates on the reservation exceeded 10 percent in 2017, more than twice Montana’s unemployment rate. Montana State University found that the poverty rate for the Blackfeet Nation in 2015 was 38.6 percent.
But while the state’s $49 million contribution has already been appropriated in a combination of cash and bond measure authorizations, significant federal funds have yet to be allocated. Montana senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines have said they will find cost savings or revenue increases to offset the appropriations, as mandated under Congress’s “Pay-As-You-Go” budget rule."