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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26 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.

  10. As recently as in this last week Monday January 19 there has been a strong media push via local radio “pro” water compact. It is in our best interest to equal the playing field with similar tactics along with an updated website. Any information of what happened last week in the courts would be nice to see where “we” are in this point. Thanks for providing a platform! Let me know how I can help!

  11. Walter Morris said:

    I am also a water user having a decreed water right with an 1865 filing date. I have been told that the DNRC was going to take my water right and give it to someone else. I was told that our new State Constitution dealt with this matter and was very plain about the principal, first in time first in right. It seems that the system now is being handle totally contrary to this constitution?

  12. tvfmontana said:

    In case you missed this. I did notice that a number of regular TalkBack listener/callers are now paying attention to this compact. Where B4 they ignored the discussion thinking the compact only affected those residing on the res.

    The CSKT discussion starts at the 24:00 point.

    SOTU discussion with Ryan Zinke, then CSKT water compact with attorney Melissa Hornbein – YouTube

  13. anyone trusting/believing ANYTHING the Federal Government controls, is completely
    naive!! Sorta like “if you like your doctor you can keep him/her”!!
    Indian water rights will NOT be protected; the Feds can do as they wish!!
    States need to oversee water that is THEIRS (ours).

  14. Hey great website and thanks for all the effort in helping folks see thru all the smoke and mirrors on this subject..
    Having been a part of the Lincoln Country Central Committee, we have been battling this Compact for many years. Steve Curtis is very familiar with the statistic that are being used and what the real motivations are, Power plain and simple for the FEDs and a way to get the White-man off the RES and turn it back to RED as half the land they sold off. The lands have been developed and are productive now, irrigation systems are in place because the Ranchers developed it Red and White. Giving away control of
    It is a shame that some of the Legislators don’t seem to get it and are willing to sell us out, and allow over 20,000 Montanans Constitutional Rights to be placed under Tribal Jurisdiction controlled by the FEDs. Turning over Flathead Lake to the tribe would kill property values the same way it has on the RES.
    Make no joke about it, folks are Ornery already and this may just be the straw that breaks the camels back in Montana, where this will go is anybody’s guess. I say this because this thing is like standing in front of a freight train waving a flag yelling stop. Those that stand in the way of it are getting run over and no one has applied any breaks yet.

  15. The water compacts are just a part of the move for the Federal government to take control of every drop of water in the United States. It comes down from the United Nations and is part of the move to put us under a world government that has been in the works for many many years. If you really want to understand what is going on in your world please contact Michael S. Coffman from Bangor Maine who is Pres. of Environmental Perspectives, Inc. If we could get him to Montana to speak before the Legislature it would kill the Water Compact bill. Somebody younger and with more energy than I needs to take up this project. Your children and all generations to come will thank you. This is very serious! Please every one of you..take up this cause/. The water compact if signed is forever and cannot be changed later.

    • Yes, I agree it’s a fed water grab, plain and simple. Plus, it’s obvious if they can’t get it this way they will declare the Bull Trout as endangered and put a real stranglehold on our use. Keep the control in Montana. As far as CSKT having control, it’s by proxy of the feds only. And they will be set up to fail.
      I was watching the video of the informational meeting held a while back. The guy from the AG office said at one point he was proud of being considered hard-core-right wing and later said that he really wanted the federal government to have the control.
      I’ve been going through the video with a fine tooth comb, and plan to do the same with the accompanying documents. That is, if I can get a copy from Chad Vincent. That with the video from the hearing Monday will give me all the arguments with the words straight from the mouths of the players. this will be compiled into a letter with footnotes and references and possible an audio story. Will find a way to post or link when it’s done.
      Thank you to every one of you who remains involved.

  16. Walter Morris said:

    Great replies, I am trying to save our decreed water rights in Basin 41B. It seems that the DNRC has decided that they can cast doubt on the actual use of water in certain years by the water right holders. They have filed preliminary decrees with reduced allotments to the filed and decreed water rights, most with a priority date before 1900. Wait, these rights are subject to a previous water right by the Indians as they have a right to harvest fish in all streams in Montana. Alas, as soon as the CSKT is passed the DNRC and five people on an appointed board will have fooled the Montana Legislature into passing a law giving the Indian Tribes an in stream Flow Right, with a flow rate exceeding any known flow of all streams in Montana with a priority date Immemorial or in perpetuity Thus the DNRC has done the job that they say the legislature authorized them to do. The only possible solution to this impending disaster is for the Legislature to defeat SB 262 and fire the agency that has defied the intent of our new constitution. How does the DNRC justify their taking of these filed and decreed water rights away from the irrigators at the same time that they argue the need to give time immemorial water rights to somebody that has never used or laid clam to these waters with the reasoning that a treaty written in 1855 gives them a promise of water for their needs to take care of the lands that they hold title to in the reservation. with a promise to allow them to harvest fish in their ancient aboriginal territory, with assumed history. The DNRC is making rules and applying inverse facts to justify their takings. I would gladly accept the only actual agreement placed into evidence of a prior agreement giving the Indians an in stream water right dated 2007. If SB 262 passes, the legislature is laying waste to all of Montana as we presently see it. Least I forget, everywhere I go I see ads saying how good this compact is for me, please explain the actual reasoning behind this statement. I will not accept the reasoning that Mr. Peterson and Mr, Grosfield say it is good for everybody, please come up with the facts.

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