(House of Representatives - September 22, 2016)

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[Pages H5841-H5842]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (H.R. 1296) to amend the San Luis Rey Indian Water Rights 
Settlement Act to clarify certain settlement terms, and for other 
purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 1296

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       The San Luis Rey Indian Water Rights Settlement Act (Public 
     Law 100-675) is amended by inserting after section 111 the 


       ``(a) Findings.--Congress finds and recognizes as follows:
       ``(1) The City of Escondido, California, the Vista 
     Irrigation District, the San Luis Rey River Indian Water 
     Authority, and the Bands have approved an agreement, dated 
     December 5, 2014, resolving their disputes over the use of 
     certain land and water rights in or near the San Luis Rey 
     River watershed, the terms of which are consistent with this 
       ``(2) The Bands, the San Luis Rey River Indian Water 
     Authority, the City of Escondido, California, the Vista 
     Irrigation District, and the United States have approved a 
     Settlement Agreement dated January 30, 2015 (hereafter in 
     this section referred to as the `Settlement Agreement') that 
     conforms to the requirements of this Act.
       ``(b) Approval and Ratification.--All provisions of the 
     Settlement Agreement, including the waivers and releases of 
     the liability of the United States, the provisions regarding 
     allottees, and the provision entitled `Effect of Settlement 
     Agreement and Act,' are hereby approved and ratified.
       ``(c) Authorizations.--The Secretary and the Attorney 
     General are authorized to execute, on behalf of the United 
     States, the Settlement Agreement and any amendments approved 
     by the parties as necessary to make the Settlement Agreement 
     consistent with this Act. Such execution shall not constitute 
     a major Federal action under the National Environmental 
     Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.). The Secretary is 
     further authorized and directed to take all steps that the 
     Secretary may deem necessary or appropriate to implement the 
     Settlement Agreement and this Act.
       ``(d) Continued Federally Reserved And Other Water 
       ``(1) In general.--Notwithstanding any other provision of 
     law, including any provisions in this Act, the Bands had, 
     have, and continue to possess federally reserved rights and 
     other water rights held in trust by the United States.
       ``(2) Future proceedings.--In any proceeding involving the 
     assertion, enforcement, or defense of the rights described in 
     this subsection, the United States, in its capacity as 
     trustee for any Band, shall not be a required party and any 
     decision by the United States regarding participation in any 
     such proceeding shall not be subject to judicial review or 
     give rise to any claim for relief against the United States.
       ``(e) Allottees.--Congress finds and confirms that the 
     benefits to allottees in the Settlement Agreement, including 
     the remedies and provisions requiring that any rights of 
     allottees shall be satisfied from supplemental water and 
     other water available to the Bands or the Indian Water 
     Authority, are equitable and fully satisfy the water rights 
     of the allottees.
       ``(f) No Precedent.--Nothing in this Act shall be construed 
     or interpreted as a precedent for the litigation or 
     settlement of Indian reserved water rights.''.


       The second sentence of section 105(b)(1) of the San Luis 
     Rey Indian Water Rights Settlement Act (Public Law 100-675) 
     is amended by striking the period at the end, and inserting 
     the following: ``, provided that--
       ``(i) no more than $3,700,000 per year (in principal, 
     interest or both) may be so allocated; and
       ``(ii) none of the funds made available by this section 
     shall be available unless the Director of the Office of 
     Management and Budget first certifies in writing to the 
     Committee on Natural Resources of the House of 
     Representatives and the Committee on Indian Affairs of the 
     Senate that the federal budget will record budgetary outlays 
     from the San Luis Rey Tribal Development Fund of only the 
     monies, not to exceed $3,700,000 annually, that the Secretary 
     of the Treasury, pursuant to this section, allocates and 
     makes available to the Indian Water Authority from the trust 

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Denham) and the gentleman from California (Mr. Huffman) 
each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California (Mr. Denham).

                             General Leave

  Mr. DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may 
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include 
extraneous materials on the bill under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from California?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

[[Page H5842]]

  The bill before us today helps bring closure to almost 50 years of 
litigation and uncertainty that have impacted tribal and nontribal 
communities in southern California.

                              {time}  1800

  Negotiations between five tribes, water districts, cities, and 
Federal Government have been ongoing for decades, and this bill 
represents the results of those successful negotiations. The Federal 
money has already been appropriated for this settlement, and this bill, 
as amended, includes provisions that are aimed at resolving direct 
spending issues that have been identified by the Congressional Budget 
  It is not often that both sides of the aisle come to an agreement on 
anything involving California water. While I hope that we will have 
agreement on larger California water issues in the near future, this 
bill shows that we can come together. I urge my colleagues to support 
this bipartisan measure.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HUFFMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  This bill approves a water rights settlement agreement that would 
resolve nearly five decades of litigation. That is a great thing.
  The 2015 settlement between the United States and the parties that 
Mr. Denham just mentioned is important, and approving this settlement 
will finally put an end to years of bitter fighting over water rights 
in the San Luis Rey River Basin. It also leaves intact the full amount 
of funds Congress previously appropriated for the tribes. This kind of 
negotiation is important, and the painstaking work that has gone into 
it is to be commended. Now it is up to Congress to do its part to 
implement a well-crafted settlement.
  I commend my colleagues across the aisle for introducing this bill 
and for moving it through the House, and I thank the committee staffs 
on both sides who have been working hard to bring this bill to the 
  I have to say, though, Mr. Speaker, that all of this good, 
collaborative work represented in Mr. Hunter's bill stands in contrast 
to another set of pending water agreements in our State. I hope that 
the Obama administration will look at this successful example of 
collaboration in San Diego County and reconsider its current approach 
to the Westlands-San Joaquin Valley drainage disputes, where Congress 
and the public have been extremely ill-served.
  In the two pending drainage agreements, the Interior Department has 
agreed to waive hundreds of millions of dollars that are owed to 
taxpayers. They have failed to close off potential litigation risks 
from other parties and have failed to secure actual commitments to 
clean up the contamination. They have also promised to write a new, 
permanent water contract for a party that is not a tribal party but is 
in an arid state where everyone is hurting for clean water. Meanwhile, 
we weren't able to receive administration testimony on one of the 
agreements due, in part, to a pending inspector general investigation 
of the beneficiaries.
  I am hopeful that, in the next administration and in a new Congress, 
we can do a better job on this drainage issue and, specifically, that 
we will be able to tackle those California drainage disputes with the 
same level of collaboration and problem-solving that we have seen in 
the San Luis Rey Basin.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Hunter).
  Mr. HUNTER. I thank the gentleman and my great friend from 
  Mr. Speaker, the parties to this settlement have been working towards 
a resolution for almost 50 years; so I will keep my remarks brief so 
that we don't delay them any further. Before I get into the substance 
of this bill, I thank Chairman Bishop, Chairman Fleming, and the 
Natural Resources Committee staff for their assistance in getting this 
bill to the floor right now. I also thank my friends across the aisle.
  Today we are addressing an issue that dates back to the late 19th 
century, when the Federal Government established reservations--in what 
is now my district in northern San Diego County--for five Mission 
Indian bands. The creation of these reservations included sufficient 
water to meet the bands' present and future needs. However, in 1969, 
litigation arose surrounding whether the Federal Government improperly 
signed over the bands' water rights claims to two non-Indian 
municipalities--what are today the city of Escondido and the Vista 
Irrigation District.
  In 1988, after decades of litigation, Congress enacted legislation 
that was introduced by former Congressman Ron Packard, the 1988 San 
Luis Rey Water Rights Settlement Act. Among its provisions, the 
legislation directed the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to provide 
water annually to the tribes and established the San Luis Rey Tribal 
Development Fund. However, that act only becomes effective when all of 
the parties to the litigation enter into a settlement agreement 
providing for the complete resolution of all claims. That is what the 
legislation we are considering today accomplishes.
  This legislation puts into effect a previous Department of Justice 
settlement agreed to by all parties--the five Mission Indian bands, the 
two local municipalities, and the Federal Government--and requires no 
new money or water to be enacted. With the passage of H.R. 1296, 
Congress can, at last, end this dispute and finalize the action it 
sought in passing the original settlement act in 1988.
  I urge all Members to support this bipartisan legislation.
  Mr. HUFFMAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. DENHAM. Mr. Speaker, in closing, this is one small step to 
California's water solutions. It is about time that we came together on 
this one small issue in California. Now it is time to face the much 
bigger issues of a drought-stricken State that continues to see a lack 
of water storage. It is time that we find a real solution for all of 
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Denham) that the House suspend the rules 
and pass the bill, H.R. 1296, as amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.