The Crow Tribe moved another step closer to developing its water resources. This includes a proposed hydroelectric dam project.
"For well over 50 years the Yellowtail Dam and the storage behind the dam has been a symbol of our wealth being held back."
That's Crow Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote.
"Today we see this as a way forward where we begin to recognize and begin to see the economic impacts of the dam and the storage allocation with the proposed hydroelectric dam that we’re going to be pursing here in the near future."
Old Coyote and Mike Ryan, the great plains regional director for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, signed the Storage Allocation Agreement at the Bureau’s office in Billings. It defines the terms and conditions for the tribe to use their stored water from Bighorn Lake.
"It provides up to 300,000 acre feet of water for their use and enjoyment," Ryan says. "For folks who are involved in water resource management 300,000 acre feet is a lot of water."
This agreement stems from the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2010. It quantifies the Tribe’s water rights after decades of litigation and negotiation. It also authorizes funding for the Crow Irrigation Project and for construction of a Municipal, Rural and Industrial (MR&I) water system for the Tribe.
Old Coyote looks forward to engineering design phase and eventually construction of a hydroelectric power plant at Yellowtail's Afterbay Dam.
"Now we have that opportunity and the capability of not only producing hydro, but also utilizing downstream industrial use. And water probably becoming a number one commodity here in the future it’s going to be very beneficial to the Crow people to utilize this water," Old Coyote says.
The Crow Tribe has said it would like to have an 8 to 12 megawatt hydroelectric project operating by 2018.