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Az tribes get $105M for water sanitation projects; Tohono O'odham expecting payout for water settlement
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Az tribes get $105M for water sanitation projects; Tohono O'odham expecting payout for water settlement

  • Jackie Wang/News21

Arizona tribes will get $105 million for “shovel-ready” sanitation projects, after water and wastewater improvements under the Indian Health Service were funded under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Major federal funding for tribal sanitation projects will continue for next few years because of the law, also called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. At least 83 such projects in Arizona will be funded through similar investments laid out in the infrastructure law, U.S. Sens. Sinema and Kelly said in a press release.

The $1.2 trillion funding package, passed in early November, sets aside $3.5 billion to build and improve sanitation infrastructure in tribal lands over the next five years. That includes $2.5 billion to complete water rights settlements with the Tohono O'odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

Part of the $2.5 billion is for building infrastructure required by water rights settlements with the three tribes, including the Southern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement, which resolves claims in the San Xavier and Shuk Toak Districts of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The settlement guarantees that the two districts will begin receiving water from the Central Arizona Project, which delivers water from the Colorado River to the Phoenix and Tucson areas, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

“Under the agreement, the two districts would receive 37,000 acre-feet annually of water” from the CAP, according to Interior Department officials. “The U.S. government also would provide the districts an additional 28,200 acre feet annually from any source. All the water will be provided without cost to the Tohono O'odham Nation, which additionally has received a $15 million trust fund to develop its water resources.”

The five-year $3.5 billion spending package will be administered through the Indian Health Service, a Department of Health and Human Services agency tasked with providing federal services to tribes.

The federal Infrastructure law also sets aside $2 billion to expand high-speed broadband in tribal communities.

The $105 million for sanitation on Arizona’s reservations will be a boost to tribal water and wastewater systems, Sinema and Kelly said.

“We consistently hear from tribes across our state about the need to implement, modernize, and strengthen sanitation facilities on tribal lands,” Sinema said.

​​“I’ve seen firsthand the incredible impact of improved water and wastewater systems on tribal communities,” Kelly said. “Thanks to our bipartisan infrastructure law, even more families and businesses can benefit from investments in these shovel-ready projects.”

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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