As you know, much of the reserved water right compact negotiations work is done behind the scenes by attorneys and technical consultants. The science behind the compact is often why people’s eyes glaze over when hearing about the intricacies and the science behind the compact. At public meetings, it’s enough to bore people to tears, lull them into a lenghty nap after a long day of moving pipe, or to thoughts of wanting to be anywhere else but the meeting.
At a recent public meeting held by the Flathead Joint Board of Control in Ronan, people were told that the 1946 “WALKER REPORT”, the REPORT ON CONDITIONS FOUND TO EXIST on the FLATHEAD IRRIGATION PROJECT is not part of the equation. We also know that Dr. Barry Dutton’s Land and Water Consultants research on crop water requirements was not used to help determine the Farm Turnout Allowance FTA being offered to ranchers.
Remember the Water Use Agreement, aka the Stipulation Agreement between the FJBC, CSKT and the Feds proposes to eliminate duty water and instead will give a flat 1.4 acre feet of water (FTA), or one size fits all allotment of water to all irrigators.
It’s important to know and understand that this FTA allotment does not consider historical or customary uses for the past 100 years, various soil conditions, or the differences in climate / rainfall throughout the project.
Flood irrigation will necessarily become a thing of the past, forcing those irrigators to come up with costly, budget breaking “upgrades” to equipment, if they choose to continue their operations.
Instead of providing direct and appropriate responses to concerns such as these about this seemingly “arbitrary” number that will serve to put many out of business, people are being given the commission’s stonewall technique.
Case in point: The last two meetings on the matter have been an attempt to explain what many see as faulty science. Even the state recently got in the act by giving a short presentation showing their “independent” confirmation that the 1.4 acre feet is a reasonable number. For lack of a better term, let’s call this their attempt at “armchair or CYA (cover your butt) science”.
Irrigators came to that meeting to hear that the board had heard their concerns and was trying to address them. Instead the board brought along what they’d hoped would be considered irrefutable science to the meeting to bolster their claim that the 1.4 acre feet is adequate and said nothing about considering an increase in that number.
At this same meeting, irrigators also were able to poke holes in the model used and its assumptions, but the state, tribe and FJBC were undeterred, and continue to push forward with no satisfactory response back to the irrigators or the general public.
It appears to many that “selective or questionable science” is being used to back up what we have already been told is a non-negotiable number by the tribes (per Mr. Mikkelson). We are told this is the best deal the joint board can get, and instead of addressing this head on, the negotiators response has been to deflect and ignore concerns that this will put ranchers out of business over time.
This begs the question as to how the FJBC and the state will save the day?
Will the additional water needed for business be “sold” back to the irrigators? When pressed, we are told that a proposal is currently being worked on, but it’s too early to let the public know what that might be.
A reasonable person could wonder if the 1.4 acre feet was intended from the beginning to become a way to sell the water being taken from the irrigators back to them. Intentional or not, this could provide a nice revenue stream out of irrigator’s pockets into the tribes’ (YES THIS WOULD BE A TRANSFER OF WEALTH). (On a side note: when the irrigator’s water is cut back, will the project reduce their water bills so they can afford to “pay” for the water needed to make themselves whole again? Just wondering out loud)
Instead of giving merit to irrigator’s arguments that their businesses will be negatively impacted by the allotment, we are also starting to see and hear subtle implications that the ranchers might not be as knowledgeable as they should be about how to make better use of their water for the crop yields they count on.
Is it just me, or are irrigator arguments always deflected back to the commission’s preferred science and computer models, and a deaf ear is given to rancher concerns?
This begs yet one more important question:
When will the FJBC respond to comments already made by irrigators and the concerned public about the Water Use Agreement?
TICK, TICK, TICK, the clock is running out and we have no better understanding of where this is going than we did a couple of months ago.
What are they waiting for? CHRISTMAS?
If the introduction of the water use agreement during irrigation season is any indicator, I would say the answer to that question is a big fat YES. Throw it out to the public when most people will be spending time with their families, and most likely will not be paying much attention.
Now we’re onto something. We’re starting to understand how this process REALLY works”
- Hold public meetings and ask for comments and questions to make people “think” their input is important, and that they can make a difference.
- In turn, use those comments and questions to strenghten compact documents and talking points against the very people they are harming in the first place.
- Dazzle them with charts and graphs so the average person think this is way over their heads, and the decision makers know what they are talking about.
- Threaten litigation as the people’s only other option and “coerce” them to accept less than what they deserve, and into something that isn’t even close to being fair and equitable.
- Develop talking points that make people believe their “existing” uses of water will be protected, when in reality, they’re not.
- Delay or simply don’t provide feedback to questions and concerns.
- Frustrate the hell out of the public and eventually they will go away.
Guess what compact commission? it ain’t gonna happen. We aren’t going away.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For those of you brave souls who want to venture into some of the science of this, we have added two documents to our LIBRARY page.