Alternative Title

Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN Act); Water Resources Development Act of 2016; Title III, Natural Resources; Subtitle G Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act


Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana


Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement


Blackfeet Indian Reservation




Missouri River Basin

HUC Refined

Milk River Basin, St. Mary River Basin

Document Type

Federal legislation


United States 114th Congress

Publication Date



Federal Legislation: Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act of 2016, in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, Title III, Subtitle G. PL 114-322, ** Stat. *** (Dec. 16, 2016). This Act authorizes, ratifies, and confirms the water rights compact between the Blackfeet Nation and Montana dated April 15, 2009, as modified to be consistent with this subtitle. The Act relates to the Blackfeet Nation’s water rights in the Milk River, Milk River Project, St. Mary River, instream flow rights, and rights in Lake Elwell and any water rights arising out of MT state law. The legislation authorized $422 million in funding to the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana to provide clean drinking water and other water-related infrastructure projects that will improve the health, safety and welfare of the Tribe. The Secretary of Interior must enter into a contract for the delivery of 5,000 (afy) through the Milk River Project. The Project includes the St. Mary Unit, the Fresno Dam and the Dodson pumping unit. The Nation shall continue historical uses and uses existing as of 12-16-2016. It has the right to the remaining portion of (US) St. Mary River water rights after all other rights are satisfied. The Fort Belknap Indian Community and the Blackfeet Nation shall enter into an agreement whereby each tribe provides for the exercise of their respective water rights to Milk River water. Both tribes must consider equal priority dates and the historical, current and future uses. Funds shall be distributed equally by the Secretary to each tribe’s use for technical and legal matters. The Secretary shall allocate 50,000 afy of water from Lake Elwell to the Nation, which the Nation may use on or off the Reservation for any beneficial purpose. Lake Elwell is water that is impounded on the Marias River in Montana. The Nation is authorized to allocate, distribute, and lease water uses within the Missouri River Basin. The Nation has the exclusive right to develop and market hydroelectric power from the St. Mary Storage Unit, for a 15-year term. The Nation may request the Secretary to grant an extension to the term. The Secretary may require the Nation to grant any easements and rights-of-way over tribal lands that are necessary to construct the Blackfeet Irrigation Project and the Blackfeet Regional Water System, an MR&I system. The MR&I system provides for the intake, treatment, pumping, storage, pipelines and other appurtenances that provide for clean drinking water for the Nation. The Act requires the US to hold tribal water rights in trust. Allottee irrigation rights shall be satisfied through the tribe’s reserved rights. The Act establishes the Blackfeet Settlement Trust Fund administered by the Secretary and for which the Nation must develop a tribal management plan or expenditure plan. The Act establishes the Blackfeet Water Settlement Implementation Fund for use by Interior to carry out this subtitle. The Nation is also required to enact a water code in accordance with the Compact and this Act. The Nation must waive and release water rights claims against the Montana and the US. The US must waive water claims for allotees. [Source:]


Winn Act - 227 pages. Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act - 43 pages, Sec. 3701-3724, pages 187-219.

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