SALT LAKE CITY - In a year of drought and fires statewide, water is getting more and more attention in public forums. Today's 7th Annual Native American Summit is no exception. In front of more than 500 attendees, Governor Gary R. Herbert and Confederated Tribes of the Goshute chairman Ed Naranjo signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding water rights.
"Water is important to all of us, especially in our state," Herbert said. "I recognize how critical it is for the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation to establish rights to water resources on its reservation; not just for now, but for the future lives of its residents. This MOU is an important beginning to defining those rights."
Federal case law and Indian treaties have established water rights for tribes. "However, we need to quantify the amount of our federally reserved water rights to make them meaningful," Naranjo said. "Without a specific amount of water, our rights are meaningless." The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation are serving as this year's summit host tribe.
The MOU states that both parties will enter into voluntary discussions to quantify the tribe's water rights, while also realizing that water is limited and there is potential for disagreement. By entering the MOU, the tribal leaders and the State have agreed to leave time-consuming and costly litigation as a last resort and to work toward an agreement.
Tribal vice chair Madeline Greymountain said some tribes have fought for decades with other states over water rights. "This MOU is a big step forward in establishing the ground rules for dialog," Greymountain said.