H.R. 3716, Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe - Fish Springs Ranch Settlement Act

H.R. 3716

Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe - Fish Springs Ranch Settlement Act

Date
July 22, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 3716, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe – Fish Springs Ranch Settlement Act, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 3716 was introduced on December 12, 2013 by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.  The bill was marked up on June 19, 2014 and was ordered reported by unanimous consent.[1]

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[1] House Committee Report 113-532.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3716 ratifies a water settlement agreement between the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the Fish Springs Ranch.

Background

The Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, which is located thirty-five miles northeast of Reno, Nevada, spans 475,000 acres.[2]  Approximately 112,000 of those acres are covered by the Pyramid Lake, “a critical source of water for the [Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe] for fishing, economic development, and Tribal tradition.”[3]

Fish Springs is a company owned by Vidler Water Company, which “develops water rights in agricultural markets for municipal and industrial uses.”[4]  In 2005, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a pipeline project proposed by Vidler “crossing federal lands to provide groundwater from the neighboring Honey Lake Valley of Nevada to the northern Reno area.  In 2006, BLM issued a Record of Decision for a water pipeline right-of-way across public lands for Fish Springs to access water rights.”[5]  [The Tribe] appealed BLM’s decision and sued the agency in federal court, arguing that 1) the EIS did not satisfy all NEPA requirements; and 2) “grant[ing] the right-of-way would violate the trust responsibility of the United States.”[6]  The Tribe argued that “approval of the project would allow Fish Springs to draw down water in the Honey Lake Valley through groundwater pumping, which in turn could reduce available supplies on the Pyramid Lake Reservation in violation of the Tribe’s rights.”[7]  After a federal district court in 2007 issued a preliminary injunction in the Tribe’s favor, Fish Springs and the Tribe reached a settlement agreement, which led to the dismissal of the appeal.[8]

The settlement involved two parts: 1) to allow the Fish Springs project to move forward; and 2) to provide water rights security for Fish Springs.  The first portion did not require federal approval, and thus has already been carried out.  However, the second portion requires federal legislative approval.  “It effectively provides that the Tribe will subordinate its water rights and any groundwater rights it could establish in the future to Fish Springs’ right to pump up to 14,108 acre feet of groundwater.”[9]   The Tribe also agreed to waive potential claims against Fish Springs and the federal government for potential groundwater impacts of Fish Springs’ pumping actions.[10]

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[2] Id. at 2.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] Id. at 2-3.

Cost

According to CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 3716 would not impact the federal budget.  In addition, the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.