© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

On June 17-18th, the WPIC committee convened in Helena to discuss water related issues.  Remember, this is the committee that will receive the governor’s report on the compact that will be developed by the Compact Commission.

The Commission Plans to review its own creation and convey to the governor and the public its genius as intending “start a debate” (how did they miss the ongoing debate?), and respond to criticisms of the Flathead Water Compact.

Chris Tweeten addressed the committee on Wednesday.  Here’s an update on that portion of the meeting.

First he began by providing some history of the compact commission and associated legislation.  He went on to say that because the 2013 legislature did not pass specific legislation to sunset the commission, that it would remain in force as an agency for the state of Montana, and it will remain alive until the legislature takes affirmative action to sunset it.  He also mentioned that statutes in Title 2 and Title 85, would have to be repealed by the legislature to put the commission out of existence.

Next he talked about the Interim Letter they went out soliciting comments and feedback concerning the compact.  The governor listened to the comments of the public asking for “more time” to study the compact, and therefore he requested a report to allow the compact commission to police their own documents and develop a report to address issues that came up during the legislative session.

Mr. Tweeten then addressed why there was no need to go back to the negotiating table.  First, he stated that it is clear this is a FAIR COMPACT, and second, that negotiating would mean the commission would have to EXTRACT SIGNIFICANT FURTHER CONCESSIONS FROM THE TRIBE, AND THERE IS NO MORE TO GIVE.  (Please see our blog post, WHAT CONCESSIONS?)

And last, Tweeten went on to tell the commission there are HOT AND HEAVY SIGNIFICANT INDICATORS OF STRONG IRRIGATOR SUPPORT FOR THE COMPACT THAT WERE NOT HEARD DURING THE LEGISLATURE.  (Really?  The out of control and very questionable actions of 4 men on the board, plus Alan Mikkelsen indicate strong irrigator support?)

During the Tweeten phase of comments, he noted more than once that there is nothing wrong with the compact, that it is fair and could not be improved upon.

Only one member of the public commented and that was Jon Metropoulos, Helena attorney and lobbyist for the Flathead Joint Board.  Metropoulos began by saying that his clients had passed a resolution to continue negotiations with the tribe because  there were some things with the agreement they weren’t happy with.  He also stated that he thought the agreement was a pretty strong project, irrigators disagree.  Many aspects of it, he said, were good.

He went on to say that the FJBC would be going through an internal review process to 1) make sure commissioners all understood the WUA in detail (shouldn’t they also know about the compact?  After all the bigger picture is even worse than the Water Use Agreement) and 2) They will be making a comprehensive but short list of deficiencies in the agreement.

After complementing the commission but said that sometimes when parties sit down at the table, they have to realize that at some point they can’t make a deal or agree.

His final point was that the governor asked the parties to sit down, including the FJBC to “address the problems” with the compact.  Metropoulos believes the word “address” was chosen carefully by the governor, and was hopeful that meant in his client’s case that the Water Use Agreement would be changed to address the problems.

Kathleen Williams was the only committee member to ask questions, one about the double duty water and the new and improved “measured water use allowance”, and her second question to Metropoulos was a request for him to confirm to the group that there was only a very narrow thread connecting the Compact to the  Water Use Agreement and that the WUA was not negotiated by the Commission (oh, oh, is someone trying to distance themselves from the unconstitutional taking?)

In our estimation Metropoulos did not really help Williams’ case. He thought there was a strong connection between the two documents and commented that the state was involved with the drafting of the documents, but not heavily involved in the negotiations.

So now lets take this full circle back to Mr Tweeten.  Because the compact commission will remain alive and well, we ask the question:

WILL CHRIS TWEETEN STAY AT THE HELM OF THE COMMISSION?  AFTER ALL THIS WOULDN’T BE THE FIRST TIME HE WAS CALLED OUT OF “RETIREMENT” TO “SERVE” ON THIS COMMISSION.

Now we ask you to think back on all the public meetings you attended, the arrogance of the commission, the treatment of the public, and the marginalizing of those who participated in their so called public meeting process.

Remember the “behind the scenes” negotiations, and that it was the state commission that created the GRAND BARGAIN to remove 23,000 people out from state protections for their water.

Remember that it was this commission that went off the reservation to give to the federal government significant amounts of water as in-stream flows.

Remember it was the commission who allowed a “private” water use agreement to be negotiated, where the Feds and Tribes either took advantage of or coerced the FJBC to agree to an agreement that forces irrigators to forever give up their project water rights with no compensation.

In our book, leadership is ultimately responsible for the actions of the entity or organization they manage, whether it be private business, or a government agency.  So who is ultimately responsible for the COMPACT we have in front of us?  The Commission would say that had it passed, the monkey would be on the legislature’s back, but the reality is that it was a political agenda that got us the compact we have today.

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