GOT WATER? HOW ABOUT THE RIGHT TO USE IT?
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.
This product of more than a decade of negotiations is a 1,500 page document that will impact everyone living in western Montana.
This site is brought to you by Concerned Citizens of Western Montana and is a collaborative effort. We appreciate your opinions, concerns, comments, and suggestions. You can reach us via the CONTACT page, or comment on any post or page.
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The Reserved Water Rights Compact
The water compact was supposed to QUANTIFY the federal reserved water right for the Flathead Indian Reservation. Its current iteration was completed in January 2015 and consists of roughly 1,500 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. THAT WAS THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF THE WATER COMPACT IN THE FIRST PLACE. As of May 2018, Montana has refused to provide this information because they know that the compact would not be ratified if legislators knew and understood what Montana was willing to cede to just one of the seven tribes located within its borders.
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 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, 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.
Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP)
The current iteration of this document gives bare legal title to 100% of the project water to the CSKT in spite of the fact that 90% of the lands served by the project are privately owned. To add insult to injury, irrigators water deliveries will be reduced by 40-70%, which is a recipe for the failure of agriculture in the valley.
The Unitary Management Ordinance
This document is 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.
The compact specifies that Title 85 of Montana Code Annotated will no longer apply to the citizens living there. It creates this “jurisdictional void” specifically for the purpose of filling it with a Unitary Management Board that is unaccountable to the constitution and laws of the state of Montana, and it was made exempt from lawsuits. This unaccountable entity 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, this aspect of the compact will set an egregious new precedent by placing 23,000 non-Indians living on the reservation under tribal jurisdiction for their water rights. It has far reaching implications for other western states where Indian Tribes reside.
NOTE: DO YOUR OWN HOMEWORK. 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.
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