© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.  Time is running out for the CSKT Compact.  It failed to meet legislative muster, yet those most committed to its passage continue to try to breathe new life into it, using whatever means necessary.

Those ardent compact supporters whose personal legacies, political aspirations, careers, and perhaps even financial reward are on the line, simply cannot, or are unwilling to believe that their illegal, unconstitutional and precedent setting crap sandwich was rejected by the legislature.  In this alternate universe, their 1,200 plus page document is better than genius, it’s the magnum opus of water compacts.  Mr. Tweeten has gone as far as to say he envisions his compact commission to be the trail blazer, forging a new frontier for all future tribal water compacts.

Governor Bullock calls it a “fair agreement“.  The Compact Commission says they can see no foreseeable instances where this compact will hurt anyone.  Is this because they failed to complete impact studies that would have shown those foreseeable instances?  In the real world, impact studies would have been a necessary part of the commission’s due diligence, simply because they would have helped the legislature and the public understand what the implementation of this water compact would mean to their lives, their property rights and to the future.  Instead, by endorsing the existing agreement, a forever document, without this information, the governor’s signaled he’s willing to put Montana’s agriculture economy on the line for the sake of his or someone else’s political agenda.

Throughout the past year, the commission and their most devoted supporters attempted to deflect criticisms of the compact instead of trying to improve the documents so they would work for the people of western Montana.

We maintain that the compact commission conceded ownership and control over the waters of western Montana, and then worked to make the science, the talking points and the legal constitutional arguments fit into a nice neat “this compact is no different than any other” package (hint: It’s not even close).

IT DIDN’T WORK.  So what did compact proponents do when they saw the compact slipping from their grasp?

    • They attempted to marginalize and discredit the opposition
    • They doubled down on threats of litigation
    • One state employee broke house rules and lobbied on the floor in support of a blast motion of the compact to the house floor
    • One taunted an 85+ year old man with a “bring it on” when he dared to question the state employee’s “day job”
    • In two instances local residents were demoted in their jobs because they exercised their first amendment right to speak out against the compact
    • Negotiators told the public the tribe made “MAJOR” concessions, and that the state “protected existing uses of water”.
    • The commission allowed an agreement that would have FORCED irrigators to forever relinquish their water rights, and washed their hands of it by trying to call it a “private agreement” they were not a party to
    • Yet another proponent created a website and used material developed by the tribe’s marketing firm to give the appearance that farmers support the water use agreement
    • This same person also attempted to sway an election of irrigation district commissioners by filing a complaint with the Commission on Political Practices
    • A very few have attempted to give the appearance of irrigator support for the compact by pulling two districts out of the Flathead Joint Board of control, completely ignoring an election mandate by irrigators that opposed the compact 2:1
    • Some representatives of irrigators have thus far failed to recuse themselves from decisions that will negatively impact their constituents, but will positively impact their own personal interests
    • And when all else failed, they’ve attempted to use the race card to sway public opinion

And so it’s official, the race card has been played.  The use of this tactic shows desperation, and is always inappropriate.

Unfortunately the chairs of the Mission and Jocko districts of the FJBC were the first to play it in their OPED piece earlier this week.  They seem desperate to see this water use agreement and compact go forward despite its many failings.

Let us be clear, objections to the compact have nothing to do with race:  they are legal, economic, constitutional and procedural issues.  We repeat, it has nothing to do with race.

Everyone, including the federal government, has a responsibility to make sure these cheap and inappropriate tactics do not cloud or distract from what needs to be a substantive discussion about this compact, among the people of Montana.  The debate must include viable options up to and including adjudication which might be the only way everyone’s water rights will be fairly considered.