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113th Congress Report
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session 113-532
PYRAMID LAKE PAIUTE TRIBE--FISH SPRINGS RANCH SETTLEMENT ACT
July 17, 2014.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the
State of the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. Hastings of Washington, from the Committee on Natural Resources,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 3716]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred
the bill (H.R. 3716) to ratify a water settlement agreement
affecting the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and for other
purposes, having considered the same, report favorably thereon
without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.
PURPOSE OF THE BILL
The purpose of H.R. 3716 is to ratify a water settlement
agreement affecting the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION
H.R. 3716 approves a settlement between the Pyramid Lake
Paiute Tribe (The Tribe) and the Fish Springs Ranch (Fish
Springs) while decreasing federal liability related to the
federal government's trust relationship with tribes. The bill
also protects a private water project that is already
constructed and reasonably compensates the Tribe with private
funds for any actual or potential resource loss. Since the
settlement involves a trust resource, however, it requires
federal authorization to take effect. Unlike other pending
water rights settlements, the legislation accomplishes this
without the use of American taxpayer dollars. The bill does not
constitute or include an earmark in violation of the Rules of
the House of Representatives. The bill is distinguished from
water rights settlement proposals that would violate the
earmark definition in House Rules by directing federal funds to
``an entity'' or are ``targeted to a specific State, locality
or Congressional district'' (clause 9 of rule XXI.) The bill
also does not relate to or resolve federally reserved water
right claims (also known as Winters Doctrine rights).
The settlement involves the Pyramid Lake Indian
Reservation, which is located 35 miles northeast of Reno,
Nevada, in the arid counties of Washoe, Lyon, and Storey. The
reservation is 475,000 acres, approximately 112,000 of which
are covered by Pyramid Lake. The lake is entirely within the
boundary of the Tribe's reservation and is a critical source of
water for the Tribe for fishing, economic development, and
Fish Springs is a majority-owned subsidiary of Vidler Water
Company which locates, aggregates, and develops water rights in
agricultural markets for municipal and industrial uses. In
2005, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a final
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzing the impacts of a
Vidler water pipeline project 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.
The Tribe opposed this action asserting, among other
things, 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.
The Tribe appealed the BLM's decision to the Department of the
Interior Board of Land Appeals and sued the agency in federal
court, alleging that the EIS did not meet requirements under
the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and that the grant
of the right-of-way would violate the trust responsibility of
the United States. The U.S. District Court issued a preliminary
injunction against BLM and the Interior Department in 2007
after concluding that the Tribe had shown a strong probability
of succeeding on the merits of its NEPA claim. Fish Springs and
the Tribe subsequently reached a settlement in 2007 which led
to the dismissal of the appeal.
The settlement involves two parts. The first part allows
the Fish Springs project to go forward. The project has now
been constructed and the first part of the settlement has been
completed. While the Tribe had the authority to agree to this
part of the settlement without federal approval, it did not
provide water rights security for Fish Springs. The second part
of the settlement will provide for such security and was
supplemented in 2013 with a simplified agreement titled
``Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe--Fish Springs Ranch 2013 Supplement
to the 2007 Settlement Agreement.''
However, the second part of the settlement requires enacted
federal legislation for 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. The Tribe also
agreed to waive potential claims against Fish Springs and the
U.S. for damages related to its claims to groundwater and
potential impacts to the Pyramid Lake Reservation resulting
from Fish Springs' groundwater pumping actions. The Tribe would
receive $3.6 million plus interest from Fish Springs as a
result of granting such waivers.
Through enactment of H.R. 3716, the U.S. would extinguish
any claims it may have on behalf of the Tribe to the same
extent that the Tribe waives its claims against Fish Springs.
This means that the U.S. would have no right of its own or
obligation on behalf of the Tribe to assert claims waived by
the Tribe under the 2013 agreement and the legislation. As
provided by the legislation, the Tribe also agrees to waive its
claims against the U.S. relating to trust responsibilities for
the claims waived as a part of the agreement and the U.S. would
bear no liability for the claims waived by the Tribe. The
legislation authorizes the Tribe to grant the waivers against
both Fish Springs and the U.S. and the bill's provisions would
take effect after those waivers are signed and Fish Springs
pays the Tribe the $3.6 million plus accrued interest as
H.R. 3716 was introduced on December 12, 2013, by
Congressman Mark E. Amodei (R-NV). The bill was referred to the
Committee on Natural Resources, and within the Committee to the
Subcommittee on Water and Power. On June 10, 2014, the
Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the bill. On
June 19, 2014, the Natural Resources Committee met to consider
the bill. The Subcommittee on Water and Power was discharged by
unanimous consent. No amendments were offered and the bill was
adopted and ordered favorably reported to the House of
Representatives by unanimous consent.
Section 1. Short Title; Table of contents
Section 1 provides the short title and lists the table of
Section 2. Definitions
Section 2 defines key terms.
Section 3. Ratification of agreement
Section 3 ratifies the 2013 agreement between the parties.
Section 4. Wavier and releases of claims
Section 4 provides a waiver and release of certain claims
by the Tribe against Fish Springs; a reservation of rights and
retention of certain claims by the Tribe against Fish Springs;
a waiver and release of certain claims by the Tribe against the
U.S.; and a reservation of rights and retention of certain
claims by the Tribe against the U.S. This section also
extinguishes any claims the U.S. might have on behalf of the
Tribe when the waivers become effective and provides that the
U.S. will bear no liability for the claims waived by the Tribe.
The waivers become effective when they are signed by the Tribe,
and Fish Springs makes the payment to the Tribe. The U.S.
retains all rights it has to enforce the terms of the right-of-
way across federal lands, with the exception that it may not
assert a claim on the Tribe's behalf that has been
Section 5. Satisfaction of claims
Section 5 provides that the benefits provided to the Tribe
under the 2013 agreement and this Act shall be considered full
satisfaction of all claims the Tribe waived and released under
section 4 and pursuant to the agreement and any claims that the
U.S. might make on behalf of the Tribe that are extinguished
under section 4. This section also provides that if the Tribe
fails to execute the waivers and releases as authorized by this
Act within 60 days after the date of enactment, the Act and the
agreement are void.
Section 6. Beneficiaries to agreement
Section 6 states that the parties to the 2013 agreement
shall be limited to: 1) the parties to the Agreement listed
within; 2) any municipal water purveyor that provides Fish
Springs project water for wholesale or retail water service to
the area serviced by the Fish Springs project; 3) any water
purveyor that obtains the right to use project water for
purposes other than serving retail or wholesale customers; and
4) any assignee of water rights credits for project water
pursuant to the terms of the 2006 banking trust agreement
between Fish Springs and neighboring Washoe County.
Section 7. Jurisdiction
Section 7 provides that jurisdiction over any civil actions
relating to the enforcement of the agreement or the Act shall
be vested in the United States District Court for the District
Section 8. Environmental compliance
Section 8 retains the applicability of environmental laws,
including the Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, the Safe Drinking
Water Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and the
Solid Waste Disposal Act.
Section 9. Miscellaneous provisions
Section 9 covers miscellaneous matters, including
provisions that ensure that nothing in the Act establishes a
quantified reserved water right or claim as against any party
other than Fish Springs and the Tribe.
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(2)(B)
of that Rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Under clause 3(c)(3) of rule
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section
403 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has
received the following cost estimate for this bill from the
Director of the Congressional Budget Office:
H.R. 3716--Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe--Fish Springs Ranch Settlement Act
H.R. 3716 would ratify a settlement agreement between the
Fish Springs Ranch LLC and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe in the
state of Nevada. The bill would authorize the tribe to grant
waivers to Fish Springs pursuant to the settlement agreement.
H.R. 3716 also would waive any claims against the federal
government related to the settlement agreement.
CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would have
no effect on the federal budget. The federal government is not
a party to the settlement agreement between Fish Springs and
the tribe, and implementing the legislation would not increase
operating costs for the Department of the Interior. Enacting
H.R. 3716 would not affect direct spending or revenues;
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
H.R. 3716 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
On July 9, 2014, CBO transmitted a cost estimate for S.
1818, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe--Fish Springs Ranch
Settlement Act, as ordered reported by the Senate Committee on
Indian Affairs on May 21, 2014. The two bills are identifical,
and the CBO cost estimates are the same.
The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Martin von
Gnechten. The estimate was approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
2. Section 308(a) of Congressional Budget Act. As required
by clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives and section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget
Act of 1974, this bill does not contain any new budget
authority, spending authority, credit authority, or an increase
or decrease in revenues or tax expenditures. CBO estimates that
implementing the legislation would have no effect on the
federal budget. The federal government is not a party to the
settlement agreement between Fish Springs and the tribe, and
implementing the legislation would not increase operating costs
for the Department of the Interior.
3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by
clause 3(c)(4) of Rule XIII, the general performance goal or
objective of this bill is to ratify a water settlement
agreement affecting the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks,
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of
the House of Representatives.
COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4
This bill contains no unfunded mandates.
COMPLIANCE WITH H. RES. 5
Directed Rule Making. The Chairman does not believe that
this bill directs any executive branch official to conduct any
specific rule-making proceedings.
Duplication of Existing Programs. This bill does not
establish or reauthorize a program of the federal government
known to be duplicative of another program. Such program was
not included in any report from the Government Accountability
Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139
or identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic
Assistance published pursuant to the Federal Program
Information Act (Public Law 95-220, as amended by Public Law
98-169) as relating to other programs.
PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW
This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing