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McCain Introduces Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I am pleased to join my colleague, Senator Kyl, as a co-sponsor of this important legislation, the Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2003, which would ratify negotiated settlements for Central Arizona Project, CAP, water allocations to municipalities, agricultural districts and Indian tribes, state CAP repayment obligations, and final adjudication of long-standing Indian water rights claims.

These settlements reflect more than 5 years of intensive negotiations by state, Federal, tribal, municipal, and private parties. I commend all those involved in these negotiations for their extraordinary commitment and diligence to reach this final stage in the settlement process. I also praise my colleague, Senator Jon Kyl, and Interior Secretary Gail Norton, for their leadership in facilitating these settlements. From my experience in legislating past agreements, I recognize the enormous challenge of these negotiations, and I appreciate their personal dedication to this settlement process.

This legislation is vitally important to Arizona's future because these settlements will bring greater certainty and stability to Arizona's water supply by completing the allocation of CAP water supplies. Pending water rights claims by various Indian tribes and non-Indian users will be permanently settled as well as the repayment obligations of the State of Arizona for construction of the CAP.

I join with Senator Kyl today to express support for the agreements embodied in this bill and to encourage conclusion of this settlement process in the near future. Significant progress has been made in resolving key issues since we last sponsored a bill to facilitate this agreement in the 107th Congress. Some of these key issues pertain to the final apportionment of CAP water supplies, cost-sharing of CAP construction and water delivery systems, amendment of the 1982 settlement agreement with the Tohono O'odham Nation, mitigation measures necessitated by sustained drought conditions, and equitable apportionment of drought shortages.

While this bill reflects agreements reached on a host of issues after an intensive and extended effort by the numerous parties involved, it is important to emphasize that this bill does not represent the final settlement. All parties recognize that a very limited number of the provisions of this bill may be modified as the negotiations continue. We fully expect that the legislative process will culminate with a final agreement early in the next congressional session.

Mr. President, we introduce this bill today as an expression of our strong support of the various parties to successfully achieve conclusion to this process. The Arizona Water Settlements Act will be a historic accomplishment that will benefit all citizens of Arizona, the tribal communities, and the United States.

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