Colorado State Archives
Executive Orders from the Administration of Governor Bill Owens 1999-2005
Tuesday, September 5, 2000
Amy Jewett Sampson
OWENS, SALAZAR URGE U.S. SECRETARY OF INTERIOR TO SIGN FINAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT ON 15-YEARANIMAS-LA PLATA PROJECT
DENVER- Governor Bill Owens and Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar today urged U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to sign the final Tribal settlement package for the Animas-La Plata (ALP) project.
Owens and Salazar asked the United States to enter a Record of Decision that will help to resolve the water disputes that have plagued the Colorado Ute Indian Tribes for almost two decades. The request was in a letter from Owens and Salazar to Babbitt released today.
"It is my hope that Secretary Babbitt will support this final agreement to settle this long-standing tribal water rights issue here in Colorado," said Gov. Owens. "The settlement would fulfill a 15-year promise by the federal government to provide water supplies to the Southern Utes and Ute Mountain Utes in Colorado and New Mexico. The Record of Decision is one of the final hurdles to a successful settlement with the Tribes."
"The protection of existing water users in southwestern Colorado and fulfillment of the governmentís promise to the Tribes are at the heart of the final settlement package," Salazar said. "Unlike other states, Colorado and the Ute Tribes have resolved the Indian claims to water without resort to endless and fruitless litigation."
The settlement agreement outlines the construction of a scaled-back Animas-La Plata project to provide water to the Indian and non-Indian communities in southern Colorado and New Mexico.
The Colorado Ute Indian Tribes and the State of Colorado have worked tirelessly in an effort to ensure that Tribal claims were resolved in a way that avoided taking water from other water users, while also trying to ensure a reliable waters supply for residents of the area.
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Representative Scott McInnis introduced legislation this past year to construct a scaled-down Animas-La Plata project. The legislation provides for a 120,000-acre Ridges Basin Reservoir and a $40 million development fund for use by the Tribes. The reduced project provides only municipal and industrial water to the Ute Tribes, the Navajo Nation and the local cities and water districts. No irrigation water will be provided.
If the Animas-La Plata project is not approved and implemented by January 2005, the Tribes have the option of commencing destructive litigation or renegotiating their reserved right claims.
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