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Pechanga tribe praises bill to ratify resolution of decades old dispute with local water agencies

TEMECULA - The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians today praised a bill that would ratify the resolution of a dispute among the tribe and local water agencies that has gone on since the 1950s.

The band and the Rancho California and Eastern Municipal water districts have been fighting for years over the water allotted to the reservation.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Palm Springs, introduced HR 4285 Friday to ratify an agreement among the agencies.

\"Generations of Pechanga leaders have struggled to secure access to this most important resource,'' said Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro. \"This settlement provides a large measure of certainty to Pechanga's future in terms

of water supply.''

The bill would ratify an agreement reached last December among the agencies. The agreement will provide Pechanga with rights to water that were originally set out in a federal law, the Fallbrook Decree, according to tribal information officer Jacob Mejia.

The reservation gets most of its water from the Santa Margarita River Watershed but under the agreement, some water will also come from the Wolf Valley basin and Colorado River, through the Metropolitan Water District, but no other water users in the area will be affected, Mejia said.

The settlement calls for the band to receive 4,994 acre feet of water per year for its use but the Santa Margarita Basin cannot fulfill these requirements, partly because of depletion and partly because the basin also supplies residents through the Rancho California Water District.

As part of the settlement, Pechanga has agreed to accept water from other sources, thus waiving its ancient and aboriginal tribal right to all water from the basin.

Pechanga will also receive funding from the federal government to settle claims brought during the decades of litigation and use some of that money to help develop Rancho California Water District's delivery infrastructure, Mejia

said.

The tribe had brought actions against the federal government because of its alleged failure to develop water rights for the band and failure to manage a tribal trust fund for the settlement process, Mejia said.

Officials with the Rancho California and Eastern Municipal water districts could not be reached for comment late this afternoon.

 

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