The goal of this website is to provide a means for western Montanans to learn about the Flathead Reservation or Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Federal Reserved  Water Compact negotiated between the state of Montana, the federal government and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

This product of more than a decade of negotiations is a 1,200 plus page document that will impact everyone living in western Montana. Do not be complacent.  Do not be fooled.  It is not just a Flathead Indian Reservation issue.

This site was established as a means to communicate to people throughout western Montana, and should they so choose, to express their opinions, concerns, comments, and suggestions about the compact.

The proposed compact includes 3 important documents and a multitude of water abstracts / appendices you should be aware of and informed about, the Compact, the Irrigator Water Use Agreement and the Unitary Management Ordinance:

The Reserved Water Rights Compact

This document is supposed to QUANTIFY the federal reserved water right for the Flathead Indian Reservation.  The current proposed compact was completed in February 2013 and consists of roughly 1,400 pages with the appendices and maps.  Something striking about the compact is that it does not provide the quantification of the amount of water necessary to fulfill the purpose of the reservation.  This is the very purpose of negotiations.

The compact begins with an incorrect definition of the reservation that paves the way for the expansive taking of water within reservation boundaries:  all land within the exterior boundaries of the Indian Reservation established under the July 16, 1855 Treaty of Hellgate, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and including rights-of-way running through the Reservation.”   This flawed premise ignores the private property of 80% of the reservation’s population that is non-Indian, and is used by the state as the foundational base upon which this compact is built.  It is used to rationalize giving all water running through and under the reservation to the CSKT.  Additionally the compact gives the federal government time immemorial water rights for every drop of water in Flathead Lake, it forces the relinquishment of ALL the water in the Flathead Irrigation project, and concedes significant instream flows with various priority dates throughout 11 counties in western Montana in the Clark Fork and Kootenai River basins.

The compact commission has refused to do any impact studies on these documents to help the public and decision makers such as legislators understand its environmental, economic and legal impacts.  In other words, they have not provided enough information for people to truly understand its implications.

Remember, for all intents and purposes this is a FOREVER DOCUMENT, and we only have one chance to get it right.

Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP) Water Use Agreement

The Water Use Agreement (WUA) for the Flathead Irrigation Project was negotiated between the Flathead Joint Control Board and the United States / CSKT, but because of litigation, it was never formally approved - this document was once touted to be an important part of the settlement because it presented a “major piece of irrigator protections.”  It was  intended to address a large piece of the puzzle: how water rights and usage will be defined for the Flathead Irrigation Project going forward.

The current iteration of this document requires irrigators RELINQUISH their project water rights to the tribe (note the word relinquish, not make junior), in exchange for money for improvements (maybe), and an allotment of water that many irrigators say will not be enough for their operations to survive.  Litigation on this component of the compact resulted in a district court judge ruling that this agreement is an unconstitutional taking without compensation.  While the Montana Supreme Court subsequently overturned portions of this ruling, the “unconstitutional taking” language still stands.

This legal action by irrigators forced compact commission into discussion of “other options” to this agreement.  The state has conveyed to the public this is a “private” agreement that they are not part of.  FOIA requests concerning this agreement, and comments made by the irrigation district attorney indicate otherwise.

We have asked if this agreement is merely a red herring because the compact is supposed to be about quantifying the federal reserved water rights for the tribe, not irrigator’s water rights.  It has served to focus people on talking about how much water irrigators need for their operations rather than discussing the fact that irrigators were being forced to relinquish their project water rights, and that all water in the project was being given to the tribes.

The Unitary Management Ordinance 

This document will also be included in the compact as an appendix.  It forever banishes the state of Montana from administering water within the exterior boundaries of the reservation, and is the most egregious aspect of the compact.  It proposes a Unitary Management Board that will determine how all water issues (state, federal and tribal) are managed within reservation boundaries.  It also is a blatant violation of the equal protection clauses of the Montana and United States constitutions.

If approved, it will set a completely new precedent and will place 23,000 non-Indians living on the reservation under tribal jurisdiction for their water rights, and has far reaching implications in our country.

If you live within the reservation boundaries, it’s imperative that you understand this document and the impact it will have on existing and new uses of water going forward.  Don’t let the state of Montana surrender your constitutional rights and protections concerning water rights to a political and likely tribal jurisdiction.


The compact documents are available on the DNRC website for public viewing:  http://dnrc.mt.gov/rwrcc/Compacts/CSKT/


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15 thoughts on “WELCOME”

  1. I know you’re all busy. Unlike our elected officials, their appointees and contracted “partners” you all have lives and jobs to tend to in addition to performing this important service. All on our own time and dime. However, flyers are going out and more and more people are showing concern and interest. Could someone please update this site?

  2. Jay Weiner met with the Granite County(GC) Commissars yesterday. He was blessed with the audience of two commissars, the haircut boy had a sick wife to attend to. I videoed the one sided discussion. However, there were some good points and questions made by Jim Dinsmore(one of the public of 3), wearer of a few GC hats involving the Clark Fork Basin and Flint Creek irrigaters. Hopefully I’ll get the video up on U Tube ASAP. I still get the impression that those who WILL be impacted by these negotiations and now that newly released Upper Clark Fork River Basin restoration draft still think they’ll be immune, using the local wink wink Good Ol Boys Club politics. Both these “plans” are like government’s Catch & Release. It catches us, releases some of us in its holding pen and the others… just…get…pan fried.

    • Thanks for the update on the Weiner visit. That boy is like teflon. We hope Dinsmore didn’t leave the meeting feeling all is right in GC….. You’re analogy is spot on.

  3. Terry you were EXCELLENT on Talk Back this am. You shook them up and I’m sure you generated a lot of interest and support! I hate to sound greedy, but you should of had the full hour and half. You are NOT a lawyer and you are NOT from the government “to help us”. You, like the rest of us, is a concerned property owner taxpayer resident in MT. And the state is supposed to protect us ALL, against unconstitutional federal intrusion and extension of its limited authority. Thank you!

  4. I hope that Talk Back will pod cast the show. Would be great to cross link it here

    • I don’t know what happened to my post. But Terry you did an excellent job this AM on Talk Back! You didn’t hesitate once and addressed every question fully and with confidence. I think you generated a lot of interest and support. Yes you are NOT a lawyer and you are NOT from the government to help us. Two pluses for you. You are one of us, a resident tax paying Montana property owner with a nasty habit of being addicted to water. WE are the stakeholders! And Montana is supposed to protect US, ALL of us, against unauthorized unconstitutional Federal regulation of our rights.

  5. Yvonne Clay said:

    Does it matter at all that the Flathead Indian Reservation is NOT CSKT’s aboriginal land? Any Anthropologist will tell you where their ABORIGINAL land is and it is not the Flathead Indian Reservation !!!!

    • Would be interested in any cites you can provide concerning your comment. We have a map of the aboriginal territory of the CSKT per the Dept of Interior Treaty Boundary map 1983 that shows the reservation as falling within their “ceded territory”. Any information you can provide contrary to that would be appreciated.

    • drkate said:

      Of course, the aboriginal territory extended far beyond the lands that were ‘reserved’ as the FIR. Interior maps and Tribal maps based on anthropological work show the vast area that was aboriginal and specifically ceded to the US. This is a much smaller area than the subsistence range.

      The federal reserved water rights of the Tribes do not exist off-reservation on aboriginal lands. A federal reserved water right applies only to the land so reserved. Off reservation on ceded aboriginal lands, the tribes retained the right to fish, hunt, and gather in common with the citizens of the territory. That the compact claims water off the reservation is improper because these are not reserved water rights.

  6. Karen Halter said:

    Here in Lake County the Round Butte Grange is having a Candidates Forum on May 30th at the Museum in Ronan at 7 p.m. Many candidates have already said they are coming. We need written questions to ask them by May 24th so we can give those questions to a narrator. Contact Darlene Salomon at 883-1130 or e-mail her at: drenter@centurytel.net. It would be a good time to find out all the candidate’s views on the water compact. I know I won’t vote for anyone who is for the compact no matter how they try to brainwash me.

  7. I think I know the answer to this, but want to be sure. Was the federal government involved in the ‘original’ treaty? Will they be involved in this one? Even if they are not directly involved, is there anything to prevent them from stepping in to take over when they SAY the Tribes are not managing it properly? Kinda like they stepped in on the land trust SE of here? Montanans beware, looks like this is about federal control.

  8. As an aside, but not really…can anyone direct me to the proper channels to ‘get’ your water rights on your own property in Lincoln and Flathead C

  9. It seems to me that the reservation is being treated like the sovereign here, that is by
    definition a state within a state; I seem to remember reading something about this in the constitution?

    • Excellent point.

      “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.” Article IV, Section 3 Clause 1

      To complicate things further, the EPA has given the CSKT “treatment as state” status with respect to water quality. Just exactly when will that shoe drop? Oh yes, if this compact were to be ratified and the tribe has been given essentially all the water. The implications of all of this to state control and jurisdiction are quite sobering.

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