Today I attended a meeting at the Flathead Joint Board of Control in St. Ignatius. It was good to see folks expressing their concerns to the board about what many see as a disappointing lack of representation by the board and its “negotiators” on behalf of the irrigator’s interests. While some exchanges were a little heated at times, I am quite amazed at the restraint shown by irrigators when communicating their very real concerns that the stipulation agreement could, in fact, put many of them out of business over time.
I sincerely hope the message came across loud and clear to the board. The irrigators are tired of hearing the threat of litigation, or that this is the “best deal” they can get. Instead, they expect a fair and equitable agreement for all parties involved, and they do not believe the documents in front of them reflect anything close to fair.
But this is not the topic of this post. Instead I would like to turn my attention to the man at the meeting who said that non-irrigators did not belong there, and if he were a board member, he would expel each and every non-irrigator from the room. He was dead serious.
The water use agreement has the potential to do significant damage to the economic engine of the valley and destroy property values, but non-irrigators are not allowed to express their opinion about something that will impact them as well?
To me this ranks right up there with the ignorance (or would that be arrogance?) of a recent letter to the editor author who discounted opposition to the compact and its unsavory documents by people who have not been residents of the valley for very long. So I guess if you are a short timer to the valley you shouldn’t have an opinion about your water rights or property values, and if you’re not an irrigator, you shouldn’t have an opinion either.
In my humble opinion, it matters not if you are a long timer, short timer, irrigator, non-irrigator, property owner or renter, tribal or non-tribal. The plain and simple truth is we are all in this situation together. We all have chosen to make this beautiful area our home, each for our own personal reasons, but none more important than any other.
We all need water, necessary for sustenance and the existence of life itself. The people supporting this compact would like nothing better than to divide and conquer all water users, so that in the end there is no strong opposition to what is turning out to be a very lopsided overreach of power and redistribution of wealth by the people who sit at the negotiating table.
And lo and behold, it appears that the divide and conquer strategy is alive and working well in the Mission Valley!
The honest truth is that I oppose this compact for the simple reason that it is not designed to be a fair and equitable agreement for all people in western Montana. By definition it is designed to provide a segment of United States citizens, people who have been given superior rights to all others, the ability to control the lives and economy of the rest.
In 2012 it is beyond belief this could be happening. My attendance at any and all meetings is based upon one simple premise. It’s important, and it’s the right thing to do. I do it in support of my friends and neighbors, regardless of what their personal situation might be. We all use water. No ifs, ands or buts.
We must not allow ourselves to be divided and conquered by the supporters of this compact. Stand with your neighbors and stop criticizing those who put themselves at risk to defend the rights of all people, tribal and non-tribal alike.
Do not underestimate the power of a very united opposition. It does not take a genius to figure this out. It’s very simple: UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL.