Akin Gump Advises Crow Tribe in Settlement of Decades-Old Water Rights Claims

(Washington, D.C.) – On December 8, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which provides $4 billion to individual American Indians and Indian tribes to resolve disputes over past royalties from oil, gas and timber extraction from their lands and water rights disputes in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.  Title IV of this Act – the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2010 – resolves decades-old claims against the government regarding the water rights of the Crow Tribe and provides important funding for water projects for irrigation and power. 

The Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act provides the tribe with water rights in excess of 1 million acre feet per year, as well as over $460 million in federal benefits, including the first clean drinking water system for the Crow Reservation, rehabilitation of a dilapidated irrigation project on the Reservation, a clean energy development fund and hydropower development rights on the Big Horn River.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), a key figure in the effort, stated, “This law will provide important funding for water projects for irrigation and power – without adding a dime to the federal deficit.  And these projects will create jobs and stimulate economic growth for the Tribe.”

Don Pongrace, head of the American Indian Law and Policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Washington, who led the representation of the Crow Tribe in this matter, stated, “For two years, Akin Gump has had the privilege of working with Chairman Black Eagle and the Crow Tribe to bring about the passage of this legislation.  We are very proud to have played a role in another one of the largest water rights settlements in U.S. history.”  

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading international law firm, numbers more than 800 lawyers and advisors in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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