Green Guide

Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas celebrates new water rights deal

Posted September 19

— A Native American tribe in northeast Kansas is celebrating a new water rights agreement that will help it create a reservoir to provide a stable and permanent source of water on its reservation.

The Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas reached an agreement earlier this month with the state that recognizes the tribe's water rights established in 1832, when the reservation was created. The deal sets the amount of water that can be diverted from the Upper Delaware River, which flows through the reservation, and requires the Kansas Division of Water Resources to protect the tribe's water rights in times of shortage.

There is no groundwater under the reservation and the tribe's sole water source, the Delaware River, has gone dry several times. An ample, stable water supply is seen as essential for growth on the reservation, which has only a tribal farm, a gas station and casino.

Efforts to create a reservoir on the reservation near Horton in Brown County have been going on for decades, but private landowners' reluctance to give up property needed for the project slowed its progress, the St. Joseph News-Press (http://j.mp/2cwGYMN ) reported.

The new pact resolves property ownership issues and opens the door for further development of the Plum Creek Project, named after the creek that has long been seen as the most viable place to build the reservoir.

"We've been fighting with watershed boards and the farmers on this Plum Creek issue, and now hopefully we can escape some of that, and hopefully the farmers will start working with us little better," said Lester Randall, chairman of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas.

Randall said a reservoir not only would help increase volume of water available, but also improve the quality of water.

The agreement needs congressional approval before it goes into effect.

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