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dc.contributor.authorBulltail, Grace A
dc.identifier.otherbibid: 10474203
dc.description.abstractThe first portion of my dissertation research focuses on water quality and quantity impacts from a potential coal surface mine development on Crow tribal lands in southeastern Montana. My field research analysis will focus on the surface water quality in three adjacent watersheds. The study objective was to determine baseline water quality in watersheds on the Crow Reservation prior to the development of a proposed coal mine site on tribal lands. All watersheds are located within the boundaries of the Crow Indian Reservation. The primary component of both watershed studies consists of an assessment of water quality of surface water originating on tribal lands. The objective of my field research is to determine a baseline assessment of surface water in watersheds prior to mine development, particularly on tribally owned and allotted tracts. In addition, I will determine impacts to water quality from reclaimed coal mine spoils surface runoff and produced water discharge from coal bed methane wells within the watersheds. I will compare the water quality parameters from select undeveloped sites to developed sites within the watershed area. Several mines have been developed in areas downstream of the research site, immediately adjacent to tribal lands. Where the tributaries are still flowing, the surface water quality will be assessed and compared to the upstream baseline data. Historical data from state agencies will also be compared to data collected within watersheds on tribal lands. Analysis has shown the increasing degradation of water quality in watersheds downstream and across the state boundary of Montana into Wyoming where historical mining has occurred. Water quantities affected by coalbed methane development will be outlined and compared to average annual precipitation in the region. Water rights are tied to the land ownership in both states. Where coal bed methane wells were developed, the water rights of receiving waters that would be impacted by direct discharge were quantified. All surface water in Montana was owned by energy companies, in Wyoming the majority of surface water rights where CBM wells were developed was owned by energy companies with a few fee land owners with water rights feeding irrigation canals. All natural resource development was facilitated through groundwater extraction. Had the wells discharged the allowable permitted flowrate of produced water every year, the discharged water would have significantly altered the flowrate of Youngs Creek. In Wyoming the produced water was permitted as beneficial use and discharged into waterways as livestock and irrigation supplies. Montana had changed its permitting requirements and has prohibited the direct discharge of produced water into waterways. Energy companies own the majority of the water rights in the downstream reaches of the watersheds where potential coal mines would be developed. Groundwater levels in coalbed aquifers within the affected watershed have been influenced by the development of coalbed methane wells on tracts adjacent to the tribal lands. Surface water quality has also been impacted by the direct discharge of produced water from coalbed methane wells into local drainages. Finally, I will examine how tribal land tenure policy impacts water resource management on tribal lands. The Crow Tribe was recently granted reserved water rights and will now build and enforce a water code to manage its water resources. In order to enforce regulatory programs associated with the tribal water code, the tribal government will need to have the capacity to operate effective programs. This ability of the tribe to manage its resources represents a critical step toward self-determination and ultimately toward exercising tribal sovereignty. The successful implementation of the water code will affect resulting water quality in tribal communities as well as protect individual tribal member’s allottee land and water rights.
dc.subjectWater resources management
dc.subjectEnvironmental engineering
dc.subjectLand tenure
dc.subjectNatural resource development
dc.subjectTribal sovereignty
dc.subjectWater resource management
dc.subjectWater rights
dc.titleNatural resource development impacts on surface water quality across multi-jurisdictional watersheds within Montana, Wyoming, and Crow Tribal Lands
dc.typedissertation or thesis and Environmental Engineering University of Philosophy D., Biological and Environmental Engineering
dc.contributor.chairWalter, Michael Todd
dc.contributor.committeeMemberTorres, Gerald
dc.contributor.committeeMemberBartsch, James Allen

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