Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pechanga Gets Support in Water Rights Issue. Are Allottee's Water Rights Protected?

Yesterday, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians Water Rights Settlement Act was introduced in the United States Senate (S. 1219) and House of Representatives (H.R. 2508).    

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the bill in the Senate and was joined by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), an original cosponsor. 
Cong. Ken Calvert (R-CA) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives and was joined by a bipartisan list of lawmakers who co-sponsored the legislation including Cong. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Cong. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Cong. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Cong. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Cong. Paul Cook (R-CA), Cong. David Valadao (R-CA), Cong. Tom Cole (R-OK), Cong. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Cong. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Cong. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Cong. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), and Cong. Dan Kildee (D-MI).

Pechanga Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said, “Generations of Pechanga leaders have endeavored to secure our access to this important resource and there is nothing more important to the future of our tribe.  This Settlement will finally secure a permanent source of water for our tribal members for generations to come, while ending the costly and protracted litigation process.  We extend our thanks to Sen. Boxer and Sen. Feinstein for their support in the Senate.  We are also grateful for Cong. Calvert’s leadership on this bill in the House and we look forward to working with Congress and the Administration to bring this next and final chapter to a close.”

The Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians Water Rights Settlement Act quantifies the Band’s reserved water rights in the Santa Margarita River Watershed.  The legislation also authorizes necessary infrastructure to guarantee a permanent supply of water to the Band through cooperative agreements with the local water purveyors, including Rancho California Water District, Eastern Municipal Water District and Metropolitan Water District.  Importantly, the legislation will provide a coordinated effort by the parties to manage the water within the basin that will bring all residents of the Pechanga Reservation a safe and dependable water supply for the future. 

The authority for Congress to legislatively settle Pechanga’s water rights resides in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution, which grants Congress with the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.”

We wrote about this issue in 2011 when the Tribe LIED to Congress that only a dozen or so allottees had interest in the land, when there were closer to 200.  Here's that link.

From the BIA letters, here is where the DOI admits to our water rights:

The Department of the Interior recognizes that allottees have water rights on allotted lands and that the United States has a trust responsibility, independent of any responsibility to the Pechanga Band, to protect those interests.
The Department is currently reviewing the proposed settlement legislation and its effect on allottees within the Reservation.

Please remember that the Hunter family is one of the few original allottees to maintain their land on the reservation.  We have homes on the original 20 acres we were allotted in 1895.  We were part of the Temecula Band of Luiseno Indians, which somehow disappeared and became the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, which has FEW allottees in the tribe. 
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