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House panel asked to approve ‘meaningful bill’ for Arizona’s Bill Williams River

WASHINGTON — Arizona, tribal and private-sector officials urged a House panel Friday to support an agreement that would settle a years-long dispute over water rights in the Bill Williams River watershed.

The Bill Williams River Water Rights Settlement Act of 2014 would guarantee some water rights for the Hualapai Tribe, allow Freeport Minerals Corp. to continue operating their Bagdad copper mine and provide the state with lands for wildlife protection, backers said.

“The settlement act is a good example of public-private cooperative resolution of long-standing water disputes,” said Francis McAllister, vice president of land and water for Freeport Minerals.

“I think Freeport has been very honest in this agreement,” said Hualapai Council Member Jean Pagilawa. “There is a lot of trust in it.”

They were two of four witnesses at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing on the bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, and backed by every member of the state’s congressional delegation.

A companion bill in the Senate has been sponsored by Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain. It got a hearing in July but has not been voted on.

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