September 13 marked the turning point for the Crow Tribe and tribal Chairman Cedric Black Eagle confirmed it when he said in a tribal press release, “Today is an important day for the Crow people.”
For Black Eagle and the Crow Tribe, it will be marked down as the day the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act, a deal worth $74 million initially, was signed at the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse in Billings, Montana.
The contract between the tribe and the Secretary of Interior, through the Bureau of Reclamation is to help rehabilitate and improve the Crow Irrigation Project. The funds that were immediately transferred upon the signing marks the first step in a process that will span 10 years and finish with the tribe receiving more than $131 million in total for the Crow Irrigation Project.
“While we celebrate the passage of the Crow Water Settlement, we knew that the hard work would not end at the Settlement’s passage and that we would need to press forward to implement the Crow Water Settlement so that our people could realized the benefits from it,” said Black Eagle in the press release.
The initial funding will be used to begin construction of the Crow Irrigation Project and comes at an important time, according to the Billings Gazette, with the recent layoffs of 200 people who were on the tribal payroll.
“”With the execution of the Crow Irrigation Project contract [September 13], we will begin to create jobs on the reservation this fall that will help put our people to work and get the Crow Irrigation Project into good repair for the first time in its history,” Black Eagle added in the release. “The jobs we create this fall are just the start and we are looking forward to next year and thereafter as the benefits we obtained in the Settlement continue to bear fruit.”
In attendance for the signing with Black Eagle were tribal representatives; Michael Ryan, the Great Plains Regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation and his staff; and Congressional staff from the offices of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator Tester (D-MT) and Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT).