GOT WATER? HOW ABOUT THE RIGHT TO USE IT?
This blog is being offered as a way for western Montanans to learn about the Reserved Water Rights Compact Negotiations currently taking place between the state of Montana, the federal government and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.
These negotiations have the potential to impact all people living in western Montana, and contrary to popular belief are not just of concern to residents whose property falls within the exterior boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Our goal is to notify the public of future meetings and activities concerning this issue.
We would like to see this site become a public forum for people throughout western Montana to express their opinions, concerns, comments, and suggestions about the compact.
The final compact is expected to include 3 important documents you should be aware of and informed about:
- The Reserved Water Rights Compact – this will be the agreement that goes to the legislature in 2013 and then to U.S. Congress for ratification. It will define water rights for western Montana.
- The Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP) Water Use Agreement between the Flathead Joint Control Board and CSKT - this document was once touted to be an important part of the settlement. It was intended to address a large piece of the puzzle: how water rights will be defined for the Flathead Irrigation Project going forward. The current iteration of this document requests that the project relinquish its water right to the tribe, in exchange for a small portion of the tribe’s “settlement” money for improvements to the project and an allotment of water that many irrigators are saying will not be enough for their operation to survive. Litigation on this component of the compact has led to commission 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. We disagree.
- The Unitary Management Ordinance - this document will also be included as an appendix to the final compact submitted to the legislature. It proposes a Unitary Management Board that will determine how all water issues (state, federal and tribal) are managed within reservation boundaries. If approved, it will set a completely new precedent and it has far reaching implications . 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.
NOTE: DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK ON THIS COMPACT. TAKE NOTHING AT FACE VALUE. WE CERTAINLY DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, BUT PROMISE TO DO OUR BEST TO PROVIDE YOU WITH INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE DIRECTION THIS IS HEADED.
The compact documents are available on the DNRC website for public viewing: http://dnrc.mt.gov/rwrcc/Compacts/CSKT/
WE STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONTACT THE COMMISSION WITH ANY QUESTIONS, COMMENTS AND CONCERNS YOU MIGHT HAVE CONCERNING THIS COMPACT. BE SURE TO ASK THEM FOR FACTS, NOT TALKING POINTS
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